How To Put Old Paint Out To Pasture

Chances are good that you as a resident of the city and county of Los Angeles are in possession of some sort of hazardous material. Maybe it’s an old computer monitor stuck in the back of your closet or that quart of Navajo White paint you bought from Home Depot to touch up the livingroom wall that got damaged when you threw your cell phone against it for reasons we won’t go into here. Maybe it’s that very cell phone.

Whatever the item or items may be, they’ve been hanging around primarily because you’re just too dang lazy you have better things to do but also because you have something of a conscience in regards to personal responsibility and you don’t want to violate any laws disposing of the stuff improperly. So it just sits and sits and before you know it you’ve broken another cell phone against a different wall and bought another quart of paint because you’d temporarily forgotten you had the first quart stashed under the kitchen sink, and so on.

So what to do… what to do, indeed. Fortunately for us greater and lesser Angelenos the County of Los Angeles’ Department of Public Works in conjunction with the City of Los Angeles’ Bureau of Sanitation operate regional Solvent Automotive Flammable Electronic (SAFE) Collection Centers that are staffed and ready to go to work properly disposing of the crap you can’t (the county also maintains a calendar of mobile collection events; more info here). All you have to do is take it to them — although as we found out there are limits to what they will accept.

See in our case, Susan and I had what I would categorize as a “total shitload” of old paint stored out of the way in the basement. Not only was there some eight years worth accumulated since Susan bought the house, but also a bunch of leftover cans from her tenant’s past life as a grafitti paint-out specialist for the city.

After the jump, is what a “total shitload” of old paint looks like (click to enlarge):


Basically what you’re seeing all secured in the bed of my truck and ready to go are 30 gallon-sized cans (with varying amounts of paint in each), about another 10-12 quart-sized containers, and as a bonus there was a five-gallon bucket full of the tenant’s used motor oil just sitting in the garage for goodness knows how long before I moved in three years ago (fortunately I was able to find a lid and properly cap it for safe transport but I still loaded it into a hefty trash bag just as an added layer of insulation against any spillage).

And away we went to the permanent Los Angeles-Glendale SAFE Collection Center just off the Golden State Freeway at 4600 Colorado Boulevard (map; open Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.), but here’s the thing: we were totally breaking the law — and totally knew it. See, it’s a violation punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 along with some jail time to transport more than 15 gallons or 125 pounds of hazardous waste to collection sites. And sure, we considered putting half in my truck and half in Susan’s car and caravanning over but ultimately we decided to take our chances at traveling the five miles undetected and hope that no law enforcement personnel were lying in wait at the center to sting over-the-max scofflaws like us who dare to show up.

We were fortunate in avoiding both scenarios, but didn’t get off entirely scot-free as we were schooled by the center’s attending personnel who lectured us on the error of our ways and left us in limbo for a couple minutes while deciding whether to accept our entire hazardous haul or send us home with half to come back tomorrow (as only one visit per day is allowed). Ultimately with respect and good humor we prevailed upon their good will and they took the entire load. Had they not I would have been a touch consterned but also understanding and just made a return trip today.

In the end the result would be the same: we’ve rid ourselves and our household of a bunch of toxic waste and we did it the right and proper way.