To dispose of old empty paint cans, recycle them. To dispose of half-empty paint cans, donate the cans, recycle the paint or take the cans to a hazardous waste disposal facility.
Most paint cans are recyclable. If the paint can is empty or mostly empty, take it to a community recycling program. If the can is not completely empty, be sure to let the paint dry out before taking it to a recycling center. Pour larger amounts of latex paint into a box with shredded paper, let it dry and throw it in the garbage; do not attempt to throw away other types of paint. Let the can dry out before recycling it.
If the can still has paint in it, consider donating the cans to a school or local community program. Alternately, give it away to a friend or family member.
Some companies and charities offer paint recycling programs to safely dispose of old paint and cans. PaintCare and Habitat for Humanity are examples of charities that collect unwanted paint cans and re-use them.
Some paints are harmful for the environment. Paints produced before 1978 often contain lead, and mercury was added to paint before 1991. Oil paint also usually contains hazardous chemicals and therefore must be disposed of properly. To get rid of old paint cans containing hazardous materials, contact a disposal facility for hazardous waste. To find a location nearby, consult Earth911.com, notes PopularMechanics.com.