| Trent Levakis
GRANBY — During its Nov. 6 meeting, the Granby Selecboard was visited by Thomas Irwin, a Dalton resident who has been visiting municipalities across the state in hopes of gaining support for a bill that would create a statewide paint recycling program.
The bill, H.823 and S.551, has been proposed six times in the state Legislature, failing to receive approval thus far, and was inspired by similar laws passed in 10 other states and Washington D.C.
Irwin explained and advocated that through a paint stewardship program, consumers would be charged a fee of less than $1 a gallon of paint. They would then be able to return their paint cans containing unused paint free of charge to drop-off sites at participating paint retail stores and transfer stations.
The fee charged to consumers would go to the national nonprofit PaintCare, which would use the money to arrange for transportation of the recycled paint to paint collection and recycling centers. According to PaintCare’s website, 71% of all paint collected can be used as recycled paint, another 15% can be used for other purposes such as fuel and 9% ends up in the landfill.
Irwin reference the model being used in Clifton Park, New York that is now pursuing to become the model in Massachusetts. He added Paint Stewardship is needed in the state as Massachusetts generates 5.2 million tons of trash annually, and 3.2 tons of incineration capacity.
According to Irwin the other 2 million tons of trash goes to landfills, however, there are only five active municipal landfills in the state with no additions currently planned.
“The majority of these 2 million tons of trash need to be hauled out of state to places as far away as Ohio, western New York or South Carolina. This is expensive and has a very large carbon footprint,” Irwin said. “Fortunately, there is a way we can begin addressing this problem. Implementing product stewardship to waste streams such as paint, mattresses, plastics and packaging that are amenable to this approach will help us begin decreasing this expensive burden.”
Irwin explained the Paint Stewardship program would allow residents to discard unwanted liquid latex and oil-based paints without cost to participating paint retail stores any day the store is open. Retailers collect the return paint in totes and when a tote is filled, PaintCare picks up the tote and hauls it to a paint reprocessing plant where it is reblended and then sold to entities such as Habitat for Humanity.
The consumers part is paying an extra fee of up to $1 per gallon at the time of purchase. If they purchase five gallons, it’s $1.75.
“The interest is not in making money, its in breaking even,” Irwin added.
Specifically for Granby, Irwin shared this service would be valued as currently between 30% and 60% of paints that is returned to the Enfield, Connecticut, Sherwin Williams store are Massachusetts residents.
“They’re willing to drive that distance and you spend that time just to return paint, so it doesn’t get in the way of the landfill,” Irwin said. “Also, the 95% of the 530 residents dropping off paint at five separate household hazardous waste days that I spoke to signed the petition encouraging their legislator to become a bill co-sponsor. This suggests that 95% of the residents in Granby with paint in their basements, and likely there are many, would value and support this legislation.”
Other reasons Irwin mentioned was the decreased volume heading for landfills and that the program would significantly decrease toxic waste created when oil based paint is discarded inappropriately.
“It will present no cost to municipalities and will decrease household hazards’ raised state costs, as demonstrated in our neighboring states of Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maine, Vermont and New York, who have already have the law,” Irwin said.
Irwin then explained how this bill with seemingly so many obviously positives has had to be proposed to the state six times.
He explained only 5% of the 6,000-7,000 bills presented in each two year session of the legislature, only 5% of them actually reach the floor for a vote.
“Hence, the bill needs to have big savings or big demand to be considered,” Irwin said. He added that savings are estimated to be about $2 million annually, but the cost save is for the public and that cut does not go to the state. This means public pressure and demand must be raised to get this bill across the finish line, according to Irwin.
Irwin explained presently there are 27 representatives and 11 senators sponsoring or co sponsoring the bill, including local officials Rep. Mindy Domb (D-Amherst) and Sen. Jake Oliveira (D-Ludlow). To improve the chances this legislation passes, Irwin said many more is needed.
Irwin asked the Selectboard to first reach out to its other state Rep. Dan Carey (D-Easthampton) and request his support in becoming a co-sponsor of the bill to which the board said they would reach out to his office and initiative the conversation.
When the bill is to arrive to the Ways and Means Committee later this year or early next year, Irwin added it was important to have a letter from as many municipalities as possible to encourage the committee to view the paint stewardship legislation favorably and help get it to the legislative floor for a vote.
When opened to the board for further questions and information, Irwin explained if passed the bill would have folks go to their local Sherwin Williams, Ace Hardware, True Value Hardware, and drop it off as long as it’s in its original can and original label and is still liquid. There is also no more than 5 cans a day per resident allowed to be returned under the law.
Selectboard member Richard Beaulieu asked if stores like Home Depot or Lowes would be featured as locations for returns. Irwin explained those companies as well as Walmart have all elected not to collect paint under this program.
“The small paint retailers, they say this is fantastic because those large retailers, 10% of their paint is going to be recycled as well and all coming to one store, increasing foot traffic,” Irwin said. “The big box stores are happy because they don’t have to deal with this and the little guys are happy because it dramatically increases their foot traffic.”
Selectboard Chair Glenn Sexton asked Irwin what he was looking for from the Selectboard to help. Irwin asked the board to speak with Carey about the issue and becoming a cosponsor, and also to pass a resolution showing the town’s commitment to passing this bill.
Irwin said he sat with a legislative aide of Carey a week prior and handed them 273 petition signatures and shared they had a great conversation about Carey potentially becoming a co-sponsor.
Sexton told Irwin at the moment he struggled with the board endorsing something like this even though he was in favor of the bill and its intended purpose. He did add the board would be reaching out to Carey to touch base on the issue.
“I do support this, I think we have a huge waste problem and its not getting any better. We just create more waste and more waste and what happens is these other states are saying, ‘you know what, no more waste from other states. We’re doing it on our own now,” Sexton said. “I think seeing especially our neighboring states are already doing it, it’s proven to work so like I said I have no problem reaching out to Dan and everyone else too to reassure them that they’re going down the right track.”