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U.S. Department of the Interior
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Mr. Paul Gammon

Spray Paint Can Recovery, Re-Use and Recycling System, Coos Bay District, Bureau of Land Management, Oregon

Project Point of Contact

Mr. Paul Gammon
Coos Bay District, BLM


As with most land management agencies, the Bureau of Land Management uses spray paint to mark trees for trail signage.  To divert this hazardous waste stream of the "spent" aerosol cans, Mr. Paul Gammon designed and built a machine to recover the paint remaining in each can.  The machine enables recycling for approximately 4,800 cans, reuse of four gallons of paint, and saves approximately $2,000 annually.  The home-grown paint recovery system eliminates the need for regulatory review of hazardous material disposal practices and saves time associated with hazardous waste management responsibilities and paperwork.  The system received a favorable evaluation during the Coos Bay District's 2007 Compliance Assessment-Safety, Health, and the Environment audit.  Paul also created a tandem program to ensure the use of recovered paint in the field, and as a waste reduction method ensures paint inventory does not exceed demand.  This machine and tandem program can be replicated successfully at other DOI sites that use large volumes of tree marking paint.  The initiative successfully reduces waste and reuses and recycles what would otherwise be hazardous waste.

Project Description

Need and Implementation:

The development of this system eliminated the District's waste paint stream by approximately five gallons per year through recovery and re-use of tree marking paint. This will reduce the paint-related hazmat waste produced by the District and provide clean scrap metal that can be recycled, or perhaps sold. This also reduces the consumption of petroleum products associated with manufacturing the paint and transporting it to the District.

The primary challenge overcome by this project was the development and fabrication of the paint recovery system. The concept and design was developed by Paul, and he worked with local aluminum fabricators to get the system built. The system went into use at the Coos Bay District in June 2007.

The recovery system was evaluated during the Coos Bay District's 2007 Compliance Assessment-Safety, Health, and the Environment (CASHE) review.  The resulting report gave the system a Priority Level: Positive. The documentation for this report showed that the District had a common hazardous waste pollution prevention technique that met the following standards: 

  1. source reduction through process or equipment modifications that reduce or eliminate the generation of hazardous waste;

  2. source reduction through material substitution;

  3. improving inventory control to reduce the material that expired on the shelf; and

  4. recycling/reuse. These accomplishments comply with Executive Order 12856 goals.

After the CASHE audit, the paint recovery system two-stage filter was sent to Neilson Research Corp for disposal requirement analysis. Their review determined that 1,800 cans be processed before the filter needs to be replaced and that the used filter did not need to be disposed of as a hazardous material.

This recovery system also helps the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) achieve policy policy goals listed in Department of the Interior Manual Part 518 –Waste Management. Specifically 518 DM 1.5 A. that states, "Wherever feasible, the Department will seek to prevent the generation and acquisition of hazardous wastes." Furthermore, 518 DM B. states, "Whenever waste generation is unavoidable, the Department will work to reduce the  amounts generated through the use of sound waste management practices."

Diagram of Paint Recovery System

Caption: Diagram of Paint Recovery System


As mentioned previously this paint recovery was conceptualized and designed in-house, and therefore can be identified as newly available technology, or at least existing technology that was refined for use by the BLM to meet a specific waste management goal.

Many BLM and Forest Service units use tree marking paint and can be expected to generate some level of paint and paint can waste stream. This technology could be assumed to be applicable to all BLM and Forest Service units that use moderate to large volumes of tree marking paint. Furthermore, additional efficiencies may be gained by regionalizing or centralizing paint and paint can collection and processing.

In addition to recovering waste paint from "spent" aerosol cans, the system (as designed) can be retrofitted for straining paint that is starting to lose its shelf life. This will further improve product recovery and re-use.

Partnering and Cooperative Conservation:

Partnering and Cooperative Conservation were not part of solving the issues surrounding the District's waste paint/paint can disposal issues. However, Oregon BLM and the Coos Bay District have a strong history of working with partners, and it is very likely that the concepts of this recovery system will be shared with them.

Scope of Project Impact:

This recovery system has been in use at Coos Bay since June 2007 and could easily be implemented on all BLM Districts that use tree marking paint. Approximately five gallons are being recovered annually, decreasing the need to purchase and ship approximately three additional cases of paint annually.

Paint Recovery System