A Bucket Full Of Positive Benefits

New York’s legislative process rarely turns on a dime. It’s more like turning an ocean liner – a deliberate and slow process.

In other words, finally accomplishing important actions often takes months, sometimes even years of steady work. 

That certainly has been true for legislation I have sponsored since 2015 to relieve local governments of the responsibility for collecting and disposing of unused paint. The Senate has approved the measure year after year (and has done so again this year), with strong bipartisan support. 

It earns strong support from a range of advocates including prominent environmental organizations, industry representatives, and municipal agencies. The joint, bipartisan NYS Caucus of Environmental Legislators has identified it as a priority in the past. So does the New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC).

According to NYSAC, “Nearly four million gallons of leftover paint are generated annually in New York State.  Most leftover paint is currently disposed of in the garbage, despite the efforts of local governments. Municipalities spend millions of dollars annually to collect and manage a small fraction of unwanted paint through household hazardous waste collection programs…This measure would reduce local and state government costs, increase resident convenience, and create new jobs in recycling and manufacturing.”

Nevertheless, the Assembly’s Democratic leadership has never acted to approve this action to get this cumbersome (and expensive) unfunded mandate off the backs of local property taxpayers – and to get it done with the cooperation of the paint industry itself. 

There’s still hope the Assembly will finally act in these final days of this year’s regular legislative session. It would be a great step forward not just for this specific action, but also for others like it seeking to achieve commonsense, practical solutions.  

According to the national Product Stewardship Institute (productstewardship.us), collecting and disposing of unused paint costs New York’s local governments and local property taxpayers $25 million annually. 

This industry-funded collection program would eliminate this mandate. It would create some local jobs as the industry establishes the facilities responsible for collecting, storing, transporting, reusing, recycling, and otherwise properly disposing of postconsumer paint. Obviously, it would encourage and facilitate the environmentally sound recycling and disposal of unused paint statewide. The program would seek to place a collection site within a 15-mile radius of at least 90 percent of New York State residents.

According to NYSAC, eight states have passed similar paint stewardship laws. These laws have saved taxpayers nearly $70 million, created 200 jobs, and facilitated the recycling of over 17 million gallons of high-quality paint.

In other words, this action achieves a bucket full of positive benefits. 

The New York Product Stewardship Council (nypsc.org) states, “Most leftover paint is currently disposed of in the trash. Management of leftover paint in New York results in a cost that represents as much as 50% of municipalities’ household hazardous waste budgets, costing small local governments tens of thousands of dollars each year (in larger counties…these costs are exponentially greater). A statewide paint stewardship program would hold the paint industry responsible for collecting and managing leftover paint in New York…saving local municipalities tens of thousands of dollars on paint management costs, and establishing retail collection sites to make paint drop recycling more convenient for residents.”

Enacting the “Postconsumer Paint Collection Program” into law this year in New York State could begin setting a different standard for stronger government-industry cooperation down the road. 

It could begin to help break the logjam of inaction that plagues too many other critical challenges. 

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