What to do with all those half-empty paint cans? A new recycling program for NJ, maybe

The program would make paint companies responsible for reuse, recycling and safe disposal. It would add up to 85 cents to the price of a gallon of paint
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A long-debated program aimed at allowing people to recycle and reuse the half-empty paint cans sitting in their basements, garages and sheds won unanimous approval from a legislative committee.

The bill (A-1979) requires paint producers, distributors and retailers to set up collection programs where paint companies will be responsible for  the reuse, recycling and safe disposal of their products.

The legislation, modeled after programs in existence in 10 other states and the District of Columbia, passed a committee Monday and could be up for votes in both houses as early as next week. Previous iterations of the bill had made it to the desks of former Gov. Chris Christie and Gov. Phil Murphy, but neither signed the legislation into law. This bill, however, has gained broad support from both environmentalists and manufacturers.

Advocates of the bill argue it will save local governments and counties up to hundreds of thousands of dollars a year by relieving officials of the cost of handling paint collection days, according to Dennis Hart, executive director of the Chemistry Council of New Jersey, one of several major business groups that endorsed the bill, along with most environmental organizations.

“This program will make it easier for New Jerseyans to drop off their paint cans at convenient locations and participating retailers,” Hart said. “Those cans will be properly managed for recycling, reuse and disposal.’’

For consumers, there will be no additional cost for the recycling but the  cost of administering the program will be imposed by a fee added to the original purchase price of the paint. A portion of the fee also will go to the state Department of Environmental Protection for overseeing the program.

Consumers would pay more per paint gallon

The fee is projected to increase the cost to consumers by  roughly 75 to 85 cents a gallon early on in the program, according to proponents.

It also could end up averting up to 90% of paints and other products that now wind up in landfills or incinerators, according to Heidi McAuliffe of the American Coatings Association, an industry trade group. “It is a zero-cost program for the state,’’ she said.

The program is also unusual in that it has wide support from both the environmental community and business interests — even though it puts the burden of implementing the new program on the latter.

“Leftover paint is a serious problem in New Jersey, so it is good that this bill is moving forward,’’ said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “There are thousands and thousands of paint cans sitting in garages, sheds and basements that can now be recycled.’’

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