How to recycle paint with saw dust

June 18, 2011

Aaron Martzke, shop manager  @shearerpainting

As seen in our first recycling paint video, it is  possible to dispose of your old latex paint in a safe and proper fashion.

This is done by laying a thick piece of painter’s plastic within a contained boxed structure, such as 2” x 4” planks. The paint s then poured into the “pit” and spread evenly over the surface of the plastic for maximum drying potential. In most cases this method will work quite well, the water will have evaporated from the paint leaving only the latex polymers behind on the plastic, which can then be rolled up and disposed of safely at your local transfer station.

This method requires a great deal of sun exposure, and all around dry conditions in order to properly dry. In cold, damp, and humid climates this can present a problem. Without evaporation taking place, you will soon find yourself with a soupy mess.

However, simply using an absorbent material to aid in the drying process can solve such a problem.  In trials, saw dust has proven to be the easiest and most effective material to use for an absorbing agent. Saw dust or wood shavings can be purchased in large quantity at most landscaping material supply outfits, or even some lumberyards.

The sawdust will soak up the majority of the water in latex paints and also aid with evaporation. This permits faster dry time in regions where exposure is limited.  The process for using sawdust in latex paint disposal is a very simple one, which coincides with the conventional method.

Step 1: Lay out a boxed from using 2” x 4” planks, 4” x 4” planks or similar material. A 6’ x 6’ frame is a manageable size.

Step 2:  Cut a sheet of plastic slightly larger than the frame and lay it centered within the structure. Again, it is recommended that a 4-mil polytfilm be used. There should be a fair amount of extra material overhang on the frame. This will give you a clean area to grip when polling up the sheet after drying is complete.

Step 3: Spread the sawdust evenly over the plastic.  There should be about an inch of material covering the surface in any given location. .

Step 4: Proceed to begin pouring paint onto the sawdust. As with the original method, the paint should also be spread evenly over the sawdust to allow for maximum absorption and evaporation.  It is recommended that no more than ten gallons of paint be poured into one pit. With more absorption taking place than evaporation, when rolled up the plastic will be much heavier than it would normally be without the sawdust. In tests some rolls weighed in excess of 100lbs.

Step 5: Allow the paint to dry, as with the conventional method, it is best to let the paint dry out over a 48-hour period of time.

Step 6: When all the water has been absorbed or evaporated from the paint it will then be safe to roll up the plastic with the sawdust and latex polymers inside. It is best to put the rolled plastic into a large yard waste bag to help prevent the leakage of water and paint laden sawdust. You can now take the material to be disposed of at your local transfer station.

It is notable that as with the original method of paint disposal, it is best to cover the “pit” if it looks like it rain is a possibility, the saw dust will absorb the rain water, making it much heavier and also leaving little water absorption ability for drying the paint. Also be sure to make sure all paint being poured into the pit is indeed latex. Oil-based paints cannot be disposed of using this process.

That’s all there is to it. Now you can safely dispose of your old latex paints, even in areas of limited sun exposure. And remember, Shearer Painting will always dispose of your old unused paints in a safe and proper method such as the one explained above.


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