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Because You Asked

Can I Recycle Empty Paint Cans?

By Recyclebank |

Full cans of paint should be disposed of through a hazardous waste program, but there are other options for empty cans. 

Dear Recyclebank,

Can we recycle empty metal gallon paint cans? The paint store says no.

Richard F.


Dear Richard,

Perhaps your paint store does not recycle empty paint cans, but empty steel paint cans are indeed recyclable where steel recycling is accepted. If you can recycle soup cans, you can probably recycling empty paint cans. But as always, if you’re not sure if your waste hauler accepts something for recycling, call first! There may be restrictions because of the hazardous nature of paint. If your hauler does accept the cans, make sure any paint residue is completely dry before adding it to your recycling bin.

If your city doesn’t accept paint cans for recycling, consider reusing the cans to safely dispose of other waste that needs to be contained before discarding. Seal up cooking grease (unless your city collects it) or ashes in the can with the lid, then put the whole thing in the trash. Grease or ashes both should be completely cooled first, and make sure that the can is mostly empty and the paint completely dried out.

Steel Recycling Institute
New York City Department of Sanitation


How do you dispose of your paint cans? Let us know in the comments below.

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