Some household tasks are so simple that we do them without thinking twice. Every time you empty a tin of baked beans, or tomato soup, or chickpeas, we’re willing to bet that you give it a quick rinse and pop it in the recycling bin without giving the job a second thought. It’s unlikely that you spend time agonising over how to do it or decide it’s too much like hard work and stick it in your rubbish bin. You know that recycling is important and that it’s so simple to recycle a baked bean tin that you just do it without question.

So, why have you got approximately 17 cans of used paint sitting in the garage or your cupboard under the stairs?

That’s right, according to research carried out by Akzo Nobel, the owner of Dulux and ICI, the average UK household has 17 partially filled paint pots stored away for future use. On paper that sounds like a reasonable plan but, in practice, the only thing those paint pots usually do is gather dust. Moreover, when we finally do get around to throwing them away, we hardly ever think about recycling them. The Akzo Nobel report estimates that roughly 50m litres of paint are incinerated or landfilled every year, and the odds are the paint will still be inside its container when that happens.

However, these paint cans are no different from the humble baked bean can. In fact, they are made from the same versatile, environmentally-friendly metal packaging that can be recycled forever. But, this wonderfully endless recycling journey can only take place if we treat paint cans with the same no-brainer-attitude we have for their baked beans-filled cousins.

Why don’t we recycle our paint cans?

Here are the three biggest obstacles most people face:

#1. Confusion

Some of the rules around paint recycling can lead to a great deal of confusion. Many of us assume that our local recycling centres won’t accept paint cans, and we don’t know where to take them instead. However, that’s not the case. In fact, you can take paint cans to your nearest recycling centre if they are completely empty or contain less than 1inch of dried paint. Just pop them in the scrap metal bin, next to the bicycle frame, the washing machine, and that weird looking device that could be a medieval instrument of torture. Some recycling centres also have paint amnesty days too. In the UK, you can find the ones at your local centre here (

#2. Apathy

We all lead busy lives and sometimes you may feel that putting extra effort into recycling a paint can is too much hassle. However, we now know that protecting our environment and being green is vitally important as we try to reverse the impact of climate change. Plus, when there are simple solutions to paint can recycling, it’s easy to do our bit. Whether it’s donating your left-over paint to community projects or on websites like Freecycle so others can use it, or safely emptying the paint of the can by using cat litter or sawdust to soak up the liquid, it’s not hard to find ways to get rid of paint. Once you’ve made it part of your recycling routine, you can teach your kids how easy it is and pass on green habits to the next generation.

#3. Choice

When you next buy paint, pay attention to the packaging. As a consumer, you have a straight choice between picking a paint that’s packaged in a plastic pot or opt for a metal can alternative. There’s no easy way to recycle a plastic paint pot, that’s a fact, whereas you can recycle metal cans forever. Before you’ve even got the paint home, you are going to make the most crucial decision about the environmental impact of your purchase, so choose wisely. By making these easy, pain-free decisions, you’re going to have a positive impact on the planet and that knowledge makes looking at those freshly painted walls feel even more satisfying.

Now you know how simple it can be, we hope you’ll look at your paint cans and see they are just the same as the ones full of baked beans. One top tip, though, for heaven’s sake don’t confuse them and put matt emulsion on your toast – it’s impossible to recycle your stomach lining!

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