PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – For the last 30 years, MetroPaint has been keeping latex paint out of landfills and giving it new life. 

It’s remade millions of gallons of paint over the decades and sells each gallon for $15. 

“It really is the best example of how a product is reusable and does a full lifecycle of a product that you then can purchase again,” said Oliver Dickston, program coordinator at MetroPaint. 

He feels it’s the greenest and most eco-friendly product out there. 

Oregon Metro, which operates garbage, recycling and hazardous waste disposal in the Portland metro area, partners with PaintCare to receive shipments of donated paint every week.

Dickston said MetroPaint receives two to four 40-foot containers filled with donated paint weekly. That’s what they use to make their products. 

MetroPaint’s Swan Island facility is one of 170 paint dropoff locations across Oregon. People can donate everything from small amounts of home project paint to large amounts left over from industrial projects. Metro transfer stations take up to 35 gallons of paint per household for free. 

From there, the used paint is brought into the recycling facility, or what Dickston calls “Willy Wonka’s paint factory” for its colorful, paint-splattered walls and constantly moving parts. 

How MetroPaint makes old paint new again
The MetroPaint facility is splattered in paint. It’s one reason Oliver Dickston refers to it as “Willy Wonka’s paint factory.” Photo courtesy: Oregon Metro

“There’s forklifts running around. There’s our lab technicians you know coming in and out and blending big drums of paint,” he described. “It’s a sensory overload.” 

At the recycling facility, the paint is separated into color groups and fed into 250-gallon containers called totes. The totes are moved around like Jenga blocks throughout the facility and stacked by color. They’re then brought to production where the colors are blended. 

How MetroPaint makes old paint new again
MetroPaint released 12 new paint colors in January 2022. Photo courtesy Oregon Metro

The lab takes samples from the production and works to color match them. Careful testing is done to make sure a consistent color is formed in each batch. MetroPaint creates 12 unique shades of paint that can be used for indoor or outdoor painting projects. 

To make sure each color is an exact match to the ones it markets, MetroPaint uses a process much like the one used to try to match a color at a paint store. 

Instead of adding pigment to a base paint, a camera determines if the paint is too light or too dark and will then add in other recycled paint colors to reach the desired MetroPaint color. 

Dickston used the color River Blues as an example. 

“It is such an amazing experience that you’re able to collect all the blues in Oregon and get them to one blue,” he said. 

Once the correct shade is reached, it’s pumped into single-gallon cans, five-gallon buckets, or small sample cans before Miller Paint collects it to sell on store shelves. 

“In theory, you could bring a gallon of paint to your closest dropoff location. It could hit our facility the next day and in theory, could go through all those steps and Miller Paint could come pick it up and it could end back up on your closest Miller Paint shelf,” Dickston said.  

Throughout his career, Dickston’s worked in marketing but said he tries to promote products that have some sort of a positive impact on society. He feels MetroPaint’s paint recycling is a feel-good program that he enjoys sharing with the community. 

Part of his job involves donating paint to community needs and participating in events where children and adults can learn about paint recycling. 

Dickston’s also proud of MetroPaint’s hiring practices. He said the company tries to remove barriers to hire a diverse team. That means hiring people with mental or physical disabilities or people transitioning from the criminal justice system. 

MetroPaint doesn’t just teach employees how to perform one part of the paint-making process, but often allows them to rotate through the different steps, so they gain valuable experience to either grow at Metro or take with them in their next career. 

  • How MetroPaint makes old paint new again
  • How MetroPaint makes old paint new again
  • How MetroPaint makes old paint new again
  • How MetroPaint makes old paint new again

The next event Dickston’s looking forward to is MetroPaint’s upcoming giveaway. From October 20-22, the company will give away 25 free gallons per person of select colors. They’ll also be selling some gallons for $7. 

“Businesses who’ve been impacted by graffiti, households who need to put a protective coat of paint on their house and can’t afford, sometimes, the multi-thousand-dollar cost… coming out of COVID, we feel like it’s necessary,” Dickston said. 

In Portland, MetroPaint is sold at Miller Paint locations and at places like The ReBuilding Center and A-Boy. The paint is shipped to retailers throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington. Oregon Metro has a map online showing all locations that sell it.