Amid blistering temps, workers at Amazon Paint's facility in Fridley dumped and remixed hundreds of cans of discarded house paint and recycled it into new batches of Merlot Red, Garden Sage, Island Sand and 11 other hues to be sent around the country.
"Some of our customers order by the truckload," said general manager Martin Bergstedt, adding that Amazon processes 400,000 gallons of paint each year to be sold to apartment managers, contractors, reuse stores and Habitat for Humanity.
Bergstedt's crew will soon be a lot busier as a new Minnesota law will make it easier for homeowners to recycle used paint. The guidelines, which will go into effect next summer, will create a volunteer network of hardware and paint stores that accept old paint for free, then ship it to approved processing sites like Amazon.
The new rules will shift the cost of post-consumer paint waste onto manufactures instead of counties, which currently collect oil and latex house paint from consumers and sometimes charge a fee for the service.
The state estimates that 700,000 gallons of paint get recycled, while another 500,000 sit in dusty basements or illegally wind up in landfills.
"Until now, the costs of paint [disposal] have been borne by local governments and state agencies that run household hazardous waste programs. But the movement has been to take that responsibility and cost … and to give it to the manufacturers," said Paul Fresina, spokesman for PaintCare, the industry nonprofit that will administer the paint stewardship program for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).
Possible participants in the paint collection program include Sherwin-Williams, Hirshfield's, TrueValue and Ace Hardware, said PaintCare and MPCA officials, who hosted a meeting Monday for counties and companies to learn more about the law.
Counties will continue to collect used paint, but they will work with PaintCare's stewardship program.
Paint manufacturers will begin paying a hazardous waste assessment fee to cover the cost of recycling old latex paint at Amazon or converting oil-based paint into industrial fuel.
But that expense, estimated at more than $5 million a year, likely will be passed on to Minnesota consumers in the form of a surcharge per each gallon of paint, state officials said.
Details are still being finalized, but paint makers such as Valspar, Hirshfield's, Sherwin-Williams, Diamond Vogel, Benjamin Moore and Behr are watching closely.
Starting July 1, 2014, "there will be a new assessment fee in Minnesota and … your price of paint will go up," Fresina said. "In existing programs in California, Oregon, Vermont and other states, the cost generally [rises] 75 cents a gallon. We don't yet know what the fee cost in Minnesota will be, but we hope that it will be the same."
Right now, Minnesota counties offer 57 drop-off sites for paint with limited hours or service. Some counties charge consumers a fee for every can or bucket of paint.
The new program will keep the county sites but end the fees. It also will create that additional network of stores that offer much longer hours and convenience, said Garth Hickle, team leader for the MPCA's Product Stewardship Program.
Hans Hirshfield, CEO of Minneapolis-based Hirshfield's Paint, is concerned about the details of the plan, but said, "The industry is receptive to some type of program that helps to facilitate the management of the post-consumer paint waste stream."
Hirshfield's Paint manufactures more than 1 million gallons each year and has 40 stores in Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Dakota. As a result, it faces both manufacturer fees and pending consumer surcharges.
Figuring that out could be difficult. "It's definitely going to happen. Still some of the wrinkles need to be ironed out," Hirshfield said.
Minnesota has similar product stewardship programs for post-consumer batteries, computers, cellphones and carpets.
With the new law, Minnesota will be only the sixth state to have manufacturers foot the bill for post-consumer house paint waste.
It will fall to PaintCare to collect fees from paint sellers and to set up new drop-off sites and hauling contracts that take the old paint from stores or counties and ship them to Amazon Paint or licensed hazardous waste sites.
Ramsey County Commissioner Victoria Reinhardt said she expects PaintCare to contract with Ramsey County's existing household waste collection sites.
"We see it as a great opportunity for more residents to participate in proper paint management regardless of whether we collect it or if there are separate collection points offered by industry," Reinhardt said.
If Minnesota behaves like its predecessors, manufacturers will opt to use PaintCare, which already operates in other parts of the country.
Valspar, which generates $4 billion in annual sales making paints and coatings for Lowe's, Ace Hardware and others, will use PaintCare to comply with Minnesota's new law, said Valspar spokesman Mark Goldman. "We have been early supporters of PaintCare and will continue to use them as the law expands to other states."