Screen Printing:

Proper Ink-Disposal Methods When Screen-Printing Apparel

To those screen-printing professionals wondering whether waste inks can be thrown in the garbage or flushed down the sink, the short answer on both counts is, no!

By Steve Kahane, Contributing Writer

Wondering what to do with old, waste screen-printing ink? The answer is most definitely NOT to just pour it down the drain! Photo by

May 20, 2024

People often ask me whether waste inks can be thrown in the garbage or flushed down the sink.  The short answer is “No” on both counts. Regardless of whether you’re using plastisol or water-based inks, you must remember these inks contain industrial chemicals, the disposal of which is strictly regulated. In all cases, you should familiarize yourself with local, state and federal regulations.

Disposing of Plastisol Inks

Plastisol inks are 100 percent solids. When cured, the PVC resin fully absorbs the plasticizers in the ink to form a plastic ink film. Some municipalities may allow fully cured plastisol inks to be disposed or recycled as regular plastic waste in the municipal waste system. Uncured plastisol may be eligible for recycling. If not, it likely will need to be disposed by an authorized chemical waste disposer. If you send your plastisol waste for disposal, ask whether it is eligible for incineration, which completely destroys the waste and, thus, reduces the potential for cleanup liability in later years.

Water-Based Screen-printing Inks

Despite their name, water-based inks aren’t water, nor are they necessarily environmentally friendly or benign. As with plastisol inks they should not be poured down a sink or into the ground or thrown in the garbage. They contain various binders and pigments, and may contain solvents, such as formaldehyde or alcohols. Some of these ingredients are considered hazardous. Your local laws may allow you to reduce disposal volumes by opening the lids and allowing the water (and any solvents) to evaporate off.  The remaining pigmented binder should then be disposed of in accordance with local regulations.

Ensure Containers are Empty

When disposing of ink containers, ensure they are completely empty. Empty metal drums should be sent to a drum reconditioner for reuse. Empty cardboard drums should be completely empty and disposed of according to manufacturers’ and regulatory requirements. If you use liners in the cardboard drums, the drums can be crushed and thrown away as municipal waste. Empty plastic containers can and should be recycled. If you plan to reuse plastic pails to store or handle liquids, be aware that they can pose a drowning hazard to small kids.

Please remember that improper chemical disposal is a criminal offense and guilty parties (employees, managers and owners) have served jail time and paid large fines. Local municipalities are aggressive in tracking and pursuing offenders, so take the time to research and comply with your local municipal waste laws.

Steve Kahane is International Coatings’ president and CEO. Prior to joining International Coatings, he held senior executive positions in the environmental and engineering fields. For more information or to comment on this article, visit or contact International Coatings at This article was updated May 20, 2024



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“Printing on Baby Rib Knits”

“Demystifying White Ink”

“Solving the Customer Artwork Dilemma”