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•Call Habitat for Humanity’s Fort Wayne ReStore, 3837 N. Wells St., at 470-4200, or go to
The paint is made from mixing leftovers dropped off at Michigan recycling programs.

Giving new life to old paint

Michigan company sells recycled latex locally

Photos by Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Everybody’s Paint, a Michigan company’s line of recycled latex paint, is sold at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore on North Wells Street.

Jim Cosby says there’s more than one way to paint the town.

His just happens to be with recycled paint.

Cosby, 45, is the man behind Everybody’s Paint, a line of recycled latex paint now sold at Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore, 3837 N. Wells St. And he just might be on the cusp of a trend.

“We are just absolutely swamped busy,” says Cosby of his Battle Creek, Mich., company, ePaint Recycling, which has turned out about 80,000 gallons of recycled paint since its inception in April 2010.

It’s estimated that at least 10 percent of all paint purchased ends up as waste, he says. “Instead of letting it solidify and get tossed into a landfill, we reuse it,” he says.

At the ReStore, where the paint goes for $12 a gallon, Operations Manager Pam Lochner says it has been selling briskly.

“We’ve sold a total of 400 to 500 gallons in only the couple months we’ve had it,” she says. “We have a lot of people telling us it’s very good quality paint.”

For Habitat, the paint solves a dilemma – the ReStore had accepted surplus unopened paint, but customers often found there wasn’t enough of one color to do the job they had in mind, Lochner says.

And, she adds, unused oil-based paint sometimes would be donated, and its disposal was expensive because, unlike water-based latex, it’s considered hazardous waste.

“The nice thing about this (paint) is it fits our mission here at Habitat to keep things out of landfills because this is paint they’re reusing,” Lochner says, “and it’s getting product to people who maybe can’t afford $30-a-gallon paint.”

The Fort Wayne ReStore no longer accepts latex as a general rule, Lochner says. The only place area residents can recycle latex paint is through an anti-graffiti program run by the YMCA of Greater Fort Wayne.

Program director Greg Barnes says the program since 1994 has used the paint on about 55,000 jobs covering taggings on area structures. He says residents can donate either opened or unopened cans by calling 449-4747.

A rule of thumb, he adds, is that the paint should be no more than three years old, although some older paint is still usable.

Austin Carpenter, household hazardous waste coordinator for the Allen County Solid Waste District, says the county doesn’t have a recycling program for latex paint.

Residents are told to dispose of it by letting opened paint dry out and putting it in the regular trash, using clay kitty litter as an absorbent if necessary.

“If there’s someone who can do it (recycling) in a cost-effective way, it would be a good solution,” Carpenter says. “It’s a difficult thing to get something that people would want to use on their walls.”

Answering skeptics

Indeed, the idea that paint can be successfully recouped on a large scale for resale to consumers has not yet gotten up a full head of steam.

Archie Zehr, president of Maumee Paint & Supply in Fort Wayne, says recycled paint might have limited usefulness.

“I’d say it’d be decent paint for interior stuff, but you might not want to use it for exterior work because it’s probably not going to have a lot of experience behind it in terms of wear,” he says, noting many paint dealers recycle surplus and returned paint themselves by mixing it together for resale.

Jim Van der Clay, manager for Connolly’s Paint and Decorating Center in Fort Wayne, says his concern would be “that you’re going to get all kinds of paint” in the recycled mix. “I don’t know how good the quality would be,” he said.

Jim Nash, president of the Master Painters Institute, a trade group based in Vancouver, British Columbia, that sets paint performance standards, has similar concerns.

“Would I use it for my house? No, because I don’t want to paint more often than I would normally,” he says. “I don’t ask a green paint to be better, but I sure expect it to do as well.”

But Cosby, formerly in sales in the painting and coatings industry, says he thinks he has those problems licked.

For one thing, he says, the used paint is carefully sorted before it’s mixed.

“We separate it by 20 sorts, with colors ranging from blue to green to black to peach to red. A lot of paint recyclers don’t do that,” he says, noting that much of the paint that’s recycled ends up as basic gray and is used in undercoats or to cover graffiti or shipped to developing countries.

Everybody’s Paint doesn’t come in multiple finishes or the myriad of colors typical of new paint, Cosby acknowledges, but it does have more than a dozen decorator-friendly shades, including Keep the Great Lakes Blue, Mackinaw Green and Mastodon Bone.

“We design our colors based on (selling) paint, so the colors are the perfect middle-of-the-road colors,” Cosby says. “Our yellows aren’t too bright or too pale. And our colors all go together, so you can use the green with blue – they’re the same intensity, the same tone.”

Another paint recycler, Amazon Paint, has a palette that includes only whites, tans and grays. That paint is sold in five-gallon containers by Habitat’s ReStore in South Bend.

Because Everybody’s Paint, which is labeled for interior and exterior use, is mixed from all paints taken in, the quality tends to be about the same as an average-priced latex, Cosby says, and because the recycled product is made from new paint, the durability should be about the same.

“There is a slight variance from batch to batch, but we put the batch number and a swatch on the lid,” he says.

He also advises buyers with a large job to buy all their paint from one batch and “always intermix paint” when using more than one gallon to ensure a consistent hue, as should be done even with new paint.

Helping recyclers

From an environmental standpoint, Cosby says, new paint is a very energy- and resource-intensive product, requiring chemical pigments and dyes to fillers mined from the ground. And, he says, manufacturers are now facing increased pressure to be responsible for earth-friendly disposal of their products.

Some states, including Connecticut, Oregon, California and Rhode Island, have passed paint stewardship laws, according to the website for PaintCare. The nonprofit was created by the American Coatings Association, an industry group, to oversee recycling.

The laws provide for drop-off sites for recycling used paint and up-front charges of under $1 to $2 a gallon to fund the programs. Some places, such as California, also ban the drying out and disposing of paint in regular trash.

Cosby’s ePaint is independent of PaintCare and recycles nearly all latex paint turned in to Michigan counties’ recycling programs, he says. He is now working on bringing the Northeast Indiana Solid Waste Management District into the fold. The district includes Dekalb, Steuben, Noble and LaGrange counties.

Residents there, he says, would pay a $1 to $2 disposal fee, which would go to the cost of transportation and the disposal of unusable paint.

Meanwhile, he is seeing a big increase in the use of recycled paint in institutional and property management applications.

“Homeowners are our biggest sleeper customers. Word of mouth has been responsible for our growth – we haven’t advertised,” he adds. “It’s all been people who have been over-pleased with the paint.”