Most of the latex paint we receive at the San Francisco Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility is recycled on site and given away for free. If you would like some of our free paint, just stop by during regular business hours, 8:00 am - 4:00 pm, Thursday through Saturday.
How To Recycle Your Old Latex Paint
We recycle the paint that residents bring to our household hazardous waste facility, and latex paint that we pick from neighborhood drop off sites.
The following sites will accept up to five gallons of paint (from residents only) during their regular business hours. Please call them before dropping off paint to make sure they have room for the paint in their storage areas:
How Latex Paint is Recycled
- Brownies Hardware, 1563 Polk @ Sacramento, 673-8900
- Center Hardware, 999 Mariposa @ Pennsylvania, 861-1800
- Cliff's Variety, 479 Castro St. @ 18th, 431-5365
- Cole Hardware, 3312 Mission @ 29th St, 647-8700
- Cole Hardware, 2254 Polk @ Green, 674-8913
- Cole Hardware, 956 Cole St. @ Parnassus, 753-2653
- Cole Hardware, 70 4th St. @ Mission, 777-4400
- Fredericksen Hardware, 3029 Fillmore @ Union, 292-2950
- Golden City Building Supply, 1279 Pacific @ Leavenworth, 441-0941
- Last's Paint Clearance Center, 2141 Mission @ Sycamore, 437-0633
- Roberts Hardware, 1629 Haight @ Clayton, 431-3392
- Speedy's Hardware, 1061 Folsom @ Sherman, 699-5481
Each day we receive the equivalent of several drums of latex paint from residents. We process it by the end of the day.
What Colors are Available?
- We open each can to see if it is in good enough condition to remix and distribute to the public. We do not remix paint that is full of rust or mold or too thick from drying out over the years. (We empty the rusty or moldy paint into drums that eventually get shipped to a cement factory in southern California. Latex is an important ingredient in the manufacturing of cement.)
- Next we sort the paint into warm colors and cool colors and pour the paint into separate mixing drums that are equipped with mixing paddles and special motors. The warm colors are in the yellow, red, orange and brown range. The cool colors are in the blue, green, and gray range.
- We start the motors and let the paint mix for about 30 minutes. Each 50-gallon batch results in a different shade.
- When the paint is mixed to an even color, we pour it into new 5 gallon buckets, number the batch, label the buckets, and put a thumbprint of paint on the lid so you can see what color is inside.
We call the warm colors Sandpiper (beige), Fawn (tan), and Fort Funston (brown). The cool colors are Sage (green-gray) San Francisco Fog (blue-gray), and Granite (gray).
Our recycled paint is better than a lot of new paint and many other recycled paints, (except for a similar program going on at the household hazardous waste facility in Portland, Oregon). Other recycled paints are often thinned down with wash water from paint factories, making for cheap paint that does not cover well. The quality of latex paint is usually determined by the percentage of solids versus the amount of water it contains. Good quality paint is mixed with a high percentage of solids. Our recycled paint tends to be thicker than most new paint, because when paint is stored in people's homes for a long time, some of the water evaporates, increasing the proportion of solids. San Francisco's moderate climate also contributes to good recycled paint. Unlike in other cities, paint does not get spoiled by freezing. (Previously frozen paint is not recyclable.)
Come and Get it!
Our recycled paint is free!
We give our recycled paint away to residents or businesses on a first come, first serve basis. You do not have to be a resident or business in San Francisco to get some of our paint. We have so much paint that we cannot give it all away to people who come to the facility. Take an extra bucket or two if you are not sure how much you need, because you may never get that same color. You can always bring back what you do not use. We do not require people who are dropping off our mix of recycled paint to be San Francisco residents. We always take back our paint.
In many countries paint is much more expensive than it is here. When our paint starts to pile up, we fill up an eight by twenty foot shipping container and send it overseas. We have shipped paint to different areas of Mexico, where it has been used to paint schools, libraries and more. We have also shipped paint to Mali (Africa), Tonga, and El Salvador. Our employees have put a lot of effort into figuring out how to ship paint internationally, including navigating international customs regulations, shipping logistics and locating a liaison to distribute the paint locally in the destination country.
It's a Good Thing
Our facility follows the environmental hierarchy of "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle." Some household hazardous waste programs collect latex paint and send it to a special landfill. We prefer not to put anything into a landfill. Mixing the paint, (which falls somewhere between reuse and recycling), is better than sending it to be used as a cement additive which is lower in our hierarchy and technically considered reclamation, not recycling. Even though it would be cheaper to send the paint to a landfill, the cost for shipping the paint to other countries is about the same or less than the cost of sending it to the cement factory in Southern California. It does not cost us extra, and we are proud that so many people benefit.