Some things are tough to part with: a favorite, worn recliner; your first baseball glove; that ragged assortment of under-stuffed animals. From basements to bedroom corners, extra space is found to store these things.
But what’s done with things that are challenging to dispose of or keep, such as partially-full paint cans? The residents of Houston, Texas have found a solution. Several public and private enterprises cooperate to recover, reuse and recycle steel paint cans and their contents. In doing so, the partnership crates several new resources from a single product.
Houston hosts a household hazardous waste collection day once every three months to ensure that paint and paint products, car batteries, pesticides, motor oil and special chemical products are safely removed from the municipal solid waste stream. The program is funded by a grant from the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission, the state’s environmental protection agency.
While 60 percent of the items collected are shipped to a special waste landfill or to a facility for combustion, about 40 percent are reused or recycled. Steel paint cans are part of this 40 percent.
“We placed a high priority on keeping material out of landfills. Our residents appreciate the fact that we’re able to recycle many of the products from this collection,” said Gayle Gordon, household hazardous waste project manager for the city. “By seeing how well we could work together to accomplish this, I hope we’ve established a trend for other programs to follow.”
Two organizations cooperate to recycle steel paint cans collected through the program. Personnel from the Houston Paint and coatings Association, which is made up of area manufacturers of paints and coatings, screen the collected paint.
If the paint is determined to be resalable, it is separated into categories and bulked into 55-gallon steel drums. Other reusable paint is also poured into 55-gallon drums and shipped back to factories for reprocessing. After reprocessing, the recovered paint is given away to neighborhood anti-graffiti and housing rehabilitation programs.
Community volunteers scrape out empty steel paint cans to ensure only a thin, dry layer of paint remains. The paint cans are then loaded into a roll-off provided by the Proler Metal Processing Company.
Proler hauls the roll-off back to its yard in Houston, where a high density baler compacts the steel cans. On an average month, Proler processes approximately 25,000 tons of different grades o steel scrap for sale to steel mills for recycling.