Redecorating with recycled paint

This little-known but environmentally safer option makes sense in many circumstances

If you're like most Minnesotans, you've been staring at the same four walls for the past several months. In a cabin-fever delirium you have been dreaming of new colors, new artwork, anything to change the look of the walls around you. Now that it's June, you can push up the windows, and throw a new color on the wall.

But before you head off to the hardware store and grab a can of fuchsia paint, there are a few ways to make your painting job environmentally safer for your home. A few preparation steps can save money and paint.

First, get accurate measurements of the room or rooms you are painting. Most people buy too much paint, and then let it go to waste sitting in storage. Measure your room for height, width and length accurately and make sure you know the type of surface you will paint on. Different surfaces soak up paint at different rates, changing the amount necessary. Once you have your room's dimensions and surface style, your paint store will be able to help you accurately determine how much paint to buy.

Buying safe paint

Painting novices who want to buy environmentally safer paint face a complicated task. Linda Lindquist, a specialist in recycled paint for Hirschfield's Decorating Centers, said one of the most important things to look for is the VOC, or Volatile Organic Compound rate.

The VOC rate is important because high rates of VOCs produce paint with a higher rate of toxic and smelly fumes. Choosing dark colors can double your VOC rate, and diminish overall paint quality. You can check out most brands and their VOC content at the Master Painter's Institute website at www.paintinfo.com.

Recycled paint

A newer option is purchasing recycled paint (note: this doesn't mean scraping paint off walls for reuse).

Recycled paint comes from the unused leftover cans of paint sitting in basements all over the country. Residents of any Minnesota county can drop off their unused paint and companies like Hirschfield's and Roseville-based Amazon Environmental, Inc. reprocess it for resale. The paint sells for roughly half of the cost of new paint.

John Segala, Amazon's co-owner, takes unused paint, sends it through several quality control tests, and produces new paint. Paints of similar tint can be mixed together and tinted again to create one solid color. Segala said he is able to produce a high-quality and cheaper product, using 80 percent recycled paint.

He said that he is convincing more and more commercial owners to use recycled paint. Despite recycled paint's cheaper price, he said buyers are still worried about quality. Segala invites them to take a free sample of 5 gallons "and paint your garage with it, you'll see it's just like regular paint."

Hirschfield's also makes a recycled paint with 20 percent recycled content and produces roughly the same set of colors. Recycled paint can be tinted to a particular color, however, both companies only produce special tints for large-scale orders. But this shouldn't turn off residential painters -- those looking for a livelier color than white, off-white, beige and gray can use recycled paint as a primer.

What paint Amazon can't reprocess gets made into a cement additive. Paint that has frozen over, or has not been kept air tight, usually can't be recycled. To keep your paint air tight, place plastic wrap over the top of the can and seal the top tightly. Then store the can upside down; your paint will keep in top condition.

To donate cans of paint and other toxic waste call the Hennepin County Recycling and Problem Waste Drop-off Center at 348-6500 or surf to:

www.co.hennepin.mn.us/environmental/facilities/shennepin.html.

The Center is located at 1400 W. 96th St. in Bloomington. Its hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 8 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturday.