Aerosol spray cansThese disposal recommendations may be useful if your facility generates waste paints, solvents and related waste materials.

Empty Containers

Containers with less than 3% of the original material (by weight) are considered “empty” and are exempt from hazardous waste regulation. 

Disposal recommendations for “empty” containers

  • Ask supplier if it accepts empty containers,
  • Recycle empty containers through an area scrap metal or plastics recycler, or
  • Dispose of “empty” containers in the landfill.  Special Waste Authorizations (SWAs) are not required for empty containers.

Aerosol Cans

Aerosol cans are considered “EPA empty” when they contain no more than 3% of their original content by weight (liquid and propellant) and approach atmospheric pressure.  An aerosol can is considered empty and exempt from hazardous regulation when the contents (propellant and liquid) have been depleted through normal product use (i.e., where no more material can be removed through a functional nozzle).  Containers meeting EPA’s definition of “empty” may be landfilled or punctured and recycled as scrap metal. 

Disposal recommendations for “empty” aerosol cans

  • Recycle “empty containers” through a scrap metal dealer that accepts aerosol cans, or
  • Dispose of “empty” aerosol containers in the landfill. SWAs are not required for “empty” containers.

Disposal recommendations for aerosol cans containing residual material.

  •  Manage the cans as hazardous waste.

Aerosol evacuation and material recovery devices are available that can be used on-site to recover contents and render the can empty.  Contact the IowaWasteReductionCenter (IWRC) for more information. 

Excess Paint, Solvents and Usable Materials

Paints, solvents, and related material unfit for resale, such as paint mixed incorrectly or products missing labels, are not considered hazardous waste if it can still be used for its intended purpose.


  • Make sure cans are labeled with the type of material if the original label is missing. 
  • Keep an inventory of all materials that could be reused.
  • Contact Regional Collection Center reuse stores.
  • Provide a dated receipt and maintain a copy, which includes a list of materials accepted by the non-profit organization.  (Law does not require this; however, it does help prove that the material changed hands).                       

Excess paint, solvents, and related material cannot be evaporated or allowed to cure in open air.  This is considered illegal treatment of hazardous waste and is against the law. 

Waste Paint and Solvent

According to EPA regulations, waste generators must determine if their wastes are hazardous or non-hazardous.  Waste paints and solvents (excess mixed paint, spent cleaning solvents, etc.) are likely hazardous due to ignitability, toxicity, and/or specific listings.   A hazardous waste generator must determine its monthly hazardous waste generation rate and on-site storage quantity.  Maintaining a hazardous waste inventory best does this.  From this inventory, the facility should determine which set of hazardous waste requirements is applicable.  The EPA defines three sets of hazardous waste generator requirements based on the amount of hazardous waste generated per month and stored on-site at any given time.  These generator categories are covered in a separate summary available from the IWRC.

Disposal recommendations for waste paint and solvents

All hazardous waste must be recycled on-site (e.g. distillation in an enclosed container) or be disposed of off-site by an EPA-permitted hazardous waste management company.  If the facility is a VSCQ, the hazardous waste may be disposed of at a state household hazardous waste regional collection center or Toxic Clean-up Day.  Many other storage and handling requirements apply.

Paint-Contaminated Wastes

According to EPA regulations, waste generators must determine if their wastes are hazardous or non-hazardous.   Paint-contaminated wastes including masking, overspray/floor sweepings, rags, and paint booth exhaust filters may be hazardous because paint contains solvents and possible toxic heavy metals.

A Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedures (TCLP) test can determine if a paint-contaminated type waste is hazardous or non-hazardous.  An EPA-permitted hazardous waste management company or regional household hazardous waste collection center in some cases (i.e., generator is a VSQG) must dispose of wastes determined to be hazardous.

Disposal recommendations for hazardous paint-contaminated wastes

Generally, hazardous waste must be disposed of off-site by an EPA permitted hazardous waste management company.  If the facility is a VSQG, the hazardous waste may be disposed of at a state household hazardous waste regional collection center.  These wastes must also be included in the inventory mentioned above and used in determining which generator category applies to the facility.  Many other storage and handling requirements apply.  Please contact the IWRC at 319-273-8905 for the requirements based on the hazardous waste generator categories listed in the waste paint and solvent section.

Disposal Recommendations for non-hazardous paint contaminated wastes

  • Do a TCLP test to verify the wastes are non-hazardous.
  • Keep a copy of the TCLP test results for your records.
  • Complete an SWA and submit it to the local landfill authority and the DNR with a copy of TCLP results.
  • Follow all packaging and disposal requirements established by DNR and/or the local landfill authority.
  • Dispose of as non-hazardous through a reputable commercial waste management company.