Oregon is first state with paint recycling fee

I recently bought some latex paint. I noticed on the receipt that the store was charging a fee of 75 cents per gallon in addition to the price of each gallon. Is this like our bottle recycling? If so, where do we take the can and get the money back? If not, is it just a new hidden tax for taxpayers? What is the money for?

— Linda B., Medford

Well, Linda, if you feel like paintin' the town, you'll have to pay the price — and in Oregon the price includes a fee intended to support collection centers and recycling options for left-over house paint. The program was enacted by the Oregon Legislature, in part at the request of paint retailers, making Oregon the first state to pass legislation regarding the collection, processing and disposal of leftover paint.

"The purpose is to provide awareness about the proper use of the product, purchasing the right amount, reducing the leftover paint, reducing what you buy and properly managing what you don't use," said Rick Volpel, Oregon's program coordinator for PaintCare, the nonprofit organization implementing the pilot program.

The fee is intended to cover the costs of collection centers and recycling. Unlike a bottle deposit, you will not get your 75 cents back when you return the can.

There is no fee for a half-pint of paint or less. Fees for other sizes are: 35 cents for more than a half pint, 75 cents for a gallon and $1.60 for more than a gallon. The fee applies only to "post-consumer architectural paints" — what us plain-talking folks here at Since You Asked like to call old house paint. It does not apply to aerosol, automobile or craft paints, paint thinners or specialty coatings. (For a list of accepted and unaccepted products, see www.paintcare.org/products_fee.php.)

There are 80 collection sites/retailers in Oregon, including Miller Paint Company in Medford and Ashland, Drake's Paint & Supplies and Sherwin-Williams in Medford, where leftover paint is stored in a bin before being transported to Portland and sorted by good latex, not-so-good latex and oil-based paint. Dried and empty paint cans can be thrown out with the trash.

Oil-based paint is burned for energy; the good latex paint is recycled and the not-so-good latex is processed in California and used as an additive in concrete.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to youasked@mailtribune.com.

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