Legislative Report 4/11/2013 - Painting Vermont Green

April is the month when we feel like we’re taking a ride on Mother Nature’s yo-yo.  We get a string of balmy weather followed by a dip back into winter’s grip.  With the lengthening days, the trend is definitely moving to warm, however, and we are beginning to see the tulips peek out from the mulch and the buds beginning to appear on the trees.  The cold nights and warm days have been good for sugaring, too.

It’s time to clean up the yard and start planning to spruce up the house inside and out as well.  Some folks will soon be thinking of throwing a coat of paint on the siding or brightening up a couple of rooms with a fresh coat of color.  Chances are, after the painting is done, they’ll have quite a bit left over that will either get stored in the basement for touch-ups later on or else be disposed of, and how it gets disposed of is a growing concern.

It is estimated that about 1.6 million gallons of paint are purchased each year in Vermont, and ten percent, or 160,000 gallons, goes unused.  In Chittenden County the Solid Waste District (CSWD) has a recycling program for leftover paint that gets blended and resold as its “Local Color” product.  It is not only an environmentally friendly way of disposing of a hazardous waste product, but it keeps this toxic material out of precious landfill space and helps reduce the cost of recycling for the district. 

Not all areas of Vermont have access to such a program, however.  At present Vermont recycling programs recover about a third of this unused paint at a cost to taxpayers of about $230,000. The House Natural Resources and Energy Committee worked with the American Coatings Association and CSWD to introduce a paint recycling bill, H.262, that will be voted on this week.  If this bill is adopted into law, Vermont will become the 5th state to pass a paint product stewardship law, following the lead of Oregon, California, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

Under the proposed bill, manufacturers would add a recycling assessment to the wholesale price of each gallon of paint. Manufacturers would collect this assessment from distributors and pay it to a paint steward. In California and Oregon, manufacturers pay the assessment to a non-profit paint steward called “PaintCare”. The recycling assessment would be embedded in the wholesale cost of paint and would be passed down to consumers.  PaintCare assessments are $.75/gallon and $1.60/5-gallons in California and Oregon.

The manufacturers’ paint steward would be responsible for submitting a recycling plan to the Agency of Natural Resources. The steward’s plan would need to describe how used paint would be collected, transported and recycled; would need to include educational efforts to inform consumers about collection opportunities for used paint; and would need to establish a collection network for used paint. The collection network would need to be convenient, and would need to include Vermont’s existing household hazardous waste infrastructure as well as any Vermont retail paint store that wants to serve as a collection center at no cost to the retail store.

The plan would also be required to establish a funding mechanism, including a schedule of assessments, which would be paid by the manufacturers to the paint steward. The assessments would be allowed to cover, but not exceed, the costs of the recycling program.  The assessments would have to be approved by the Agency of Natural Resources which would report the proposed assessments back to the Legislature by March 2014.  Finally, the paint steward would be required to pay a fee to the State of Vermont of $15,000 a year to cover the Agency of Natural Resources’ costs of reviewing the recycling plan and assessments.
You can reach me by phone (425-3960) or by email (myantachka.dfa@gmail.com).