The Sonoma County Waste Management Agency is discussing a partnership with a new program aimed at reducing toxic waste from leftover paint cans.

The potential partnership with PaintCare, a nonprofit developed in Oregon in 2009, would ultimately reduce agency costs and make it more convenient for people to recycle paint.

Six locations in Sonoma County are now designated PaintCare sites, including five Kelly-Moore stores and one Dunn-Edwards store. The agency currently runs its own household hazardous waste program but absorbs the costs of processing and disposal.

"We're looking to go directly through PaintCare so that we won't be paying the disposal costs," said Lisa Steinman, a county waste management specialist. "We want to provide as many opportunities for people to recycle as possible."

About 50 percent of household toxic waste is paint, said PaintCare spokesman Paul Fresina.

PaintCare was created to administer regulations coming from Oregon's new paint stewardship program, which requires paint manufactures to provide a recycling system for leftover paint from household and commercial consumers.

California passed similar legislation in 2010, and PaintCare programs began statewide in October.

Response to the program has largely been positive, and the Kelly-Moore store on Fourth Street in Santa Rosa has even had to turn people away.

"We had to increase our pick-up from PaintCare to once a week," said Tiffany Levie, a department coordinator at the store. "We had a lot of people emptying their garages and bringing paint once they found out this was here."

Consumers are charged 35 cents for a half pint to a gallon of paint, 75 cents per gallon, and $1.60 for 1- to 5-gallon containers. Unlike the recycling fee on aluminum cans, it is not refundable.

"Some people are not happy about the new fee and don't like that it's nonreversible," Levie said. "But overall the service is really nice for our customers, because before they would have to go out of their way."

For Sara Rosenberry, a recent customer at Kelly-Moore, the fee doesn't present an issue.

"I don't really mind my money going towards the program," said Rosenberry, who purchased about five gallons of paint last year for a home improvement project.

The charge doesn't seem to have made much of an impact on local painters, although the additional fee automatically increased price bids for large industrial jobs.

"I definitely noticed when it happened," said Chip Rawson, owner of Rawson Painting in Santa Rosa. "But the painters simply pass it onto the consumers, (so) it's the customers that are paying."

Rawson hasn't had any customer concerns about the new charge, but noted that his company doesn't itemize charges.

After the paint is picked up from local paint stores, it's transported to facilities in Sacramento or San Jose, Fresina said. The paint is then divvied up for recycling uses.

Water-based paints are often mixed, repackaged and sold in different colors as recycled paint, while oil-based paints are shipped to the Midwest to become fuel for cement kilns, Fresina said.

"Our goal is to use it for the best use possible, which usually means mixing it or extracting a raw ingredient from it," he said.

Including Sonoma County, 10 California municipal agencies are in discussions with PaintCare to farm out their disposal costs. Eight other agencies, including Mendocino County, have already signed contracts with PaintCare.

"It really reduces the cost to the county and the taxpayers," Fresina said.

"We expect to see more retail locations coming on board as paint take-back locations in the near future," Steinman said.

Staff Writer Melody Karpinski can be reached at 521-5205 or Melody.Karpinski@pressdemocrat.com