TRENTON — A bill that has won unanimous approval from a state legislative committee would require paint producers and retailers to set up collection programs where paint companies would be responsible for the reuse, recycling and safe disposal of the products.

The legislation is modeled after programs in 10 states and the District of Columbia. It could be up for votes in both houses soon.

The program requires paint manufacturers to set up a collection network for residents of New Jersey to bring leftover paint to these centers in municipalities, said Heidi McAuliffe, vice president of The American Coatings Association. It also incorporates retail stores to make this as convenient as possible for New Jersey residents.

She said this program could end up averting between 85% and 90% of paints and other products that wind up in landfills, and it can all be done in a cost-effective way.

This program is financed by a fee on new sales of paints but McAuliffe said when consumers bring in their leftover paint, there is zero cost to consumers to have that paint collected, transported and recycled.

McAuliffe said it's a zero-cost program for the state because the stewardship program will reimburse the state agency for the time and resources it spends on oversight. It's also low maintenance because the stewardship organization runs the day-to-day operations of the program.

For the counties and municipalities that participate as a collection center, the paint stewardship program would then pay the municipality the cost to transport and manage the product.

Ed Waters, director of government affairs for The Chemistry Council of New Jersey, said this bill would help save money at the county level.

For example, Middlesex County would save over $280,000. Ocean County would save over $275,000. Burlington County would save over $108,000. Morris County would save over $215,000. And Bergen County has estimated a more than $250,000 savings a year if paint care was to manage that paint waste stream for them.

Jeff Tittle, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, said this program is long overdue. He said up until now, people constantly miss the county collection. Then the half-empty paint cans wind up staying in a garage or basement or get thrown out with the trash. In turn, they can land into groundwater and streams.

"This is bill is something we really need. For a lot of us now, we can go clean out our garages, so I hope this gets passed soon and signed into law," he said.

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