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Emergency Preparedness & Assistance

ARTICLE: Environmental Concerns

Many art materials can have an extremely negative environmental impact if disposed of improperly. Everything from empty paint cans to exhausted photographic chemicals must be disposed of somehow, somewhere, and too often they are thrown in the garbage, poured down the drain, and circulated in our work spaces contaminating the soil, water, and air.

Here are some tips to consider:

Read the label:

Look for the words Poison, Danger, Warning or Caution on the product label. Hazardous wastes require special handling. Hazardous wastes include paints, thinners, dyes, solvents, or cleaning fluids; materials that burn or itch on contact with skin; materials that dissolve metal, wood, paper or clothing; and products with a warning label such as Warning, Caution, Hazardous, Corrosive, Flammable, Combustible, Danger or Poison. None of these chemicals should be disposed in the trash or poured down a drain, since they would endanger solid waste and sewer workers and the environment.

Dispose wisely:

The average resident alone produces 30 pounds of garbage a week. As an artist itís likely you produce more. The amount and type of garbage produced dictates where you can dispose of it.

The Local Hazardous Waste Management Program in King County offers information and services to help 1.7 million residents and 60,000 businesses and other groups reduce toxic and hazardous materials, safely use and store hazardous materials and properly dispose of hazardous wastes. It also sponsors the IMEX, the Industrial Materials Exchange, (206/296-4899) which serves like classified advertisements for business industrial waste, matching up waste generators with waste users.

However, if the waste you produce is related to a moneymaking venture of any sort, then you must pay to dispose of your waste within the requirements for businesses.  If you are a small business, you are probably a small quantity generator. There are several Small Quantity Generator collection sites in the State. Artists in King County with business-generated hazardous wastes can participate in the Small Quantity Generator Pilot Drop-off Program. For information on participation in this program, which doesn’t charge a fee for disposal, visit their website. You can also call the Business Waste Line at 206/296-3976 for questions about disposal in King County, or if you live outside of King County, check with your local hazardous waste program.

Art Chemical Hazards Project, run by the Local Hazardous Waste Management Program in King County, is a project designed specifically to help artists use their art chemicals safely and dispose of them properly. The Art Chemical Hazards Project provides workshops to artists on chemical hazards in art materials and steps that can be taken to protect yourself, your family and the environment from them. They also publish informational articles on chemical hazards..

The Waste Free Holidays Program encourages you to give experiences instead of stuff. Help reduce holiday waste. Participating businesses and organizations in King and Pierce counties offer discounts of 15-50% between mid-November and December 31 on music, plays, sporting events, museums, restaurant meals, massages and much more. 

One Artists' Junk is Another Artists' Treasure:

If you have art supplies you can no longer use, but think someone else could, consider asking your artist friends, a local school, or a museum with an education program to see if they can use your unwanted supplies. Consider the resources below before throwing your treasure in the trash:


[Thanks to Dave Waddell at Local Hazardous Waste Management in King County for updating this information!]