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Need CHEAP paint? (How about free?)

Paints get mixed together ™as part of the Marion County Public Works Environmental Services division’s latex paint recycling program. Paint is mixed at the Salem-Keizer Recycling and Transfer Station. (submitted photo)
Paints get mixed together ™as part of the Marion County Public Works Environmental Services division’s latex paint recycling program. Paint is mixed at the Salem-Keizer Recycling and Transfer Station. (submitted photo)

Of the Keizertimes

Eamon Bishop got 15 gallons of paint for various parts of his Keizer home.

Easily a $300 tab, right?

Knock off $300 and that’s what he paid.

How did Bishop get so much paint for free? No, it’s not because he works for a paint company, nor did he find an incredible one-time special deal.

Instead, Bishop took advantage of the same program anyone in Marion County can.

In 2000, the Marion County Public Works Environmental Services division started the state’s first curbside latex paint recycling program. The program, still in affect today, allows residents to put up to two gallons of latex-based paint out with each recycling.

Initially that paint was collected and used for the county’s Paint Back program, a graffiti covering project. County ordinances require property owners to cover graffiti within 48 hours. Law enforcement agencies distributed the paint for free to victims.

The paint is still available for that purpose, but about a decade ago the program morphed into the Latex Paint Recycling Program. The program allows anyone to go to either the Salem-Keizer (3250 Deer Park Drive SE in Salem) or the North Marion (17827 Whitney Lane NE in Woodburn) Recycling and Transfer Stations and get up to 15 gallons of recycled paint.

Beth Myers-Shenai, Water Reduction Coordinator for Marion County, said a crew from the Marion County Juvenile Department’s Alternative Programs collects the recycled paint about twice a month. The paint is first processed through the Covanta Marion waste-to-energy facility in Brooks, where it is used as a fuel to generate electricity. The inmate crew then takes the paint and pours it into a vat holding 150 gallons. The paint is mixed and poured into three- to five-gallon buckets picked up from food manufacturers.

“It is a program that goes year-round,” Myers-Shenai said. “There’s a constant inflow of paint. The mixing is done at the Salem-Keizer transfer station. It’s a pretty simple process. The color is what you would expect, usually a grayish-brownish color.”

Bishop heard about the program six months ago and decided to give it a try since he needed to paint his garage floor.

“It’s a high quality product that covers well and requires no priming,” Bishop said. “I didn’t like the pinkish look of the tan, so I added some leftover paints from around the house.”

Bishop ended up with a dark gray garage floor, tan-brown garage walls, olive green for a hall and bathroom plus some yellow for outside trim.

“The paint is holding up well and the garage floor stains are gone,” said Bishop, who used a sealer for the floor and walls. “I would definitely recommend it to others.”

A somewhat similar Portland Metro paint recycling program adds colors to paint and sells the product in five-gallon pails at various locations, including Miller Paint and Building Material Bargain Center in Salem.

“Our process is more low-tech,” Myers-Shenai said. “It makes for a great primer especially.”

When the graffiti program first started, Myers-Shenai said 878 gallons of paint were recycled in 2000. The number jumped to 12,076 gallons in 2001 and has been above 30,000 gallons each year since 2007, topping out so far at 36,072 gallons in 2012.

This is the time of year demand for the recycled paint starts picking up.

“Once summer hits, the paint is used up more,” Myers-Shenai said. “Right now we have 100 pallets of paint.”

When there is plenty of paint to give out, an update is usually posted on the Environmental Services Facebook page ( However, there is no exact way to tell citizens when no more paint is left.

“When the demand starts to go up, we can have a backlog,” Myers-Shenai said. “Right now is a good peak time. We don’t have a way to notify when we’re out. You have to come out and see. It’s a first-come, first-served basis.”

Myers-Shenai noted paint manufacturers pay into the recycling system, thus balancing out the cost to the county for giving away the paint for free. The Salem-Keizer transfer station is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day.