SKOWHEGAN — Signs went up Thursday at the Skowhegan transfer station officially opening the site as a certified paint recycling and drop-off center, part of the national PaintCare initiative.

“We can take any paint — any oil-based, any latex — so you don’t have to let it build up for a household hazardous waste day any more,” Randall Gray, Skowhegan’s code enforcement officer and transfer station director, said Thursday.

Gray said the Skowhegan transfer station will take up to 5 gallons of paint per day per person. The transfer station and its annex buildings have four large containers for the paint cans. The program cannot take household or industrial cleaners or solvents.

Over the past weekend during the town’s household hazardous waste drop-off event, the town accepted 800 to 1,000 gallons of old paint. The paint was picked up by Auburn-based Environmental Projects Inc., a hazardous waste removal and spill response contractor. In the future, Clean Harbors, of South Portland, will be contracted by PaintCare to do the hauling.

“All of our employees have been certified to handle the paint, and it’s free of charge,” Gray said, adding that local hardware and paint stores also have been certified as paint drop-off points. “We’re going to just take paint from the town of Skowhegan to begin with, because I think it’s going to be overwhelming for a little bit.”

PaintCare covers the cost of paint storage bins, paint transportation, recycling, public outreach and education. PaintCare Inc. is a nonprofit organization established by the American Coatings Association to implement state-mandated paint stewardship programs on behalf of paint manufacturers in each state that adopts a paint stewardship law, according to the PaintCare website.

Maine’s paint stewardship law was passed in July 2013. The law requires paint manufacturers to implement a post consumer paint management program in Maine that includes making paint recycling easier for the public. The Maine program began Oct 1. PaintCare now operates programs in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Minnesota, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont. A program also is being planned for next year in the District of Columbia.

Under the stewardship law, an extra 75 cents is added to the cost of a gallon of paint to help cover the recycling program’s cost.

“The beauty part of it is, there’s no charge to dispose of it,” Gray said. “You can bring this paint to me and there’s no cost.”

John Hurd, PaintCare’s Maine and Vermont manager, came to Skowhegan recently to train the transfer station staff, Gray said.

“He showed us how to handle it, what to do with it, what to look for and what not to look for, what to take and what not to take,” he said.

Gray said labels on the paint cans must be legible enough to allow identification of the kind of paint the cans contained. If the labels are illegible or if the cans are rusty and corroding, they cannot be recycled and will have to be held for the a hazardous waste collection day. Gray added that paint cans must be given to one of the transfer station attendants and not just dropped off.

“If you’re done with it, bring it to us. We can take it,” he said.

Hurd at PaintCare said by phone Thursday the latex paint is sent to a company in Ohio, which sends the paint through a recycling line, where it is filtered and blended into usable paint. Most of the paint is exported for use overseas.

Oil-based paint is blended for fuel and burned. Any oil-based or lead-based paints that are old are handled as hazardous waste.

Hurd said few states are on board with the paint recycling initiative so far because the process needs to be passed by a state’s Legislature to get set up.

“It’s important to the environment because it helps keep the paints out of the landfill, especially oil-based paints,” Hurd said. “And there are minerals and petroleum products that are recoverable.”

For the community, he said, the collection and disposal of paint is important because the PaintCare program now pays for it without the use of local tax dollars.

Hurd said not all participating cities and towns in Maine are listed on the PaintCare website yet, and some are still working on the paperwork to get a program up and running.

Town transfer stations taking paint in Maine include those in Gray, Wilton, Falmouth, Limerick, Waterboro, St. George, Searsport and Hiram.

“Portland and Auburn both have hazardous waste collection monthly through the summer, so they are doing it there, and I am working with the city of Bangor,” Hurd said. “Augusta is waiting to see how this all works out. We are also holding a big paint-only collection in Bangor this Saturday.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

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Twitter:@Doug_Harlow