Maine has joined seven other states and the District of Columbia in a national effort that will allow people to dispose of their unused paint at retail locations around the state.

The state’s new paint recycling program officially began Thursday, and will give Mainers the chance to drop off – at no cost – unused paint and paint containers at more than 60 locations.

A Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization called PaintCare will collect the paint and take it to an out-of-state facility to be burned as fuel or recycled.

“The residents and business community across the state have really embraced the mission of PaintCare by working towards adding over 60 drop-off locations statewide to accept Maine’s unwanted, leftover paint surplus, helping to keep paint out of the waste stream, and ultimately helping to keep Maine the pristine, natural, beautiful place it is,” John Hurd, the Maine program manager for PaintCare, said in a statement.

The Maine Paint Stewardship Program was established by legislation enacted in 2013, but it took nearly two years to refine the rules and prepare retailers to participate, said Pete Didisheim, advocacy director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine.

“This program has been very successful in other states, allowing them (PaintCare) to collect millions of gallons of unwanted paint and paint containers,” Didisheim said. “We typically don’t think about unwanted or unused paint as trash, but the federal Environmental Protection Agency estimates that there are 64 million gallons of unused paint (to be disposed of) each year in the United States.”

When the Maine legislation was first introduced in 2013, Didisheim said sponsors estimated that Mainers generated more than 200,000 gallons of leftover paint each year. He did not have more current figures.

Didisheim said that some of that paint ends up in trash incinerators or buried in landfills, which can pollute the air or contaminate groundwater, streams and rivers.

The new program should also save communities money by reducing the need for communities to collect paint along with other household waste at special collections.

Greg Davis, a spokesman for PaintCare, said Oregon was the first state to begin collecting unused paint in 2009. California was the second state in 2012. Now, Maine joins those states along with Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, Colorado and Minnesota in the program.

PaintCare was created by the American Coatings Association, a membership-based trade association of the paint manufacturing industry.

Before PaintCare was established, the best option for a household to dispose of unwanted paint were government-run household hazardous waste facilities and occasional municipal household waste collections.

In Greater Portland, Sherwin-Williams in South Portland, Aubuchon Hardware in Portland, Cooks Hardware in Gorham, Aubuchon Hardware in Windham and Maine Paint Co. in Yarmouth are on the list of retailers accepting unused paint.

Though the drop-off is free, consumers will pay more upfront for paint. Fees of 35 cents per pint, 75 cents per gallon and $1.60 per five-gallon bucket will be added to retail prices for paint to pay for the program.

For more information on where to drop off unused paint, go to www.paintcare.org, find the PaintCare site locator link, and type in your ZIP code.