There is a lot of misinformation and disinformation on how to dispose of camping gas canisters. The truth is that it is quite easy. While they are categorized as hazardous materials when full, they can usually be recycled in your normal recycling bin if properly emptied.
In this article, we’ll show you six easy ways to dispose of canisters from camp stoves. These methods are universal and work for disposable cylinders from Jetboil, Coleman, MSR, and pretty much every brand of propane and isobutane/propane small gas canisters.
Are empty camping gas canisters considered hazardous waste?
Yes. Camping gas canisters that are empty but have not been punctured are considered hazardous waste. The reason is that even though the gas canister may not be able to support a flame and seems empty, there is still residual gas in the canister. That gas is enough to cause an explosion if ignited.
The safest way to eliminate this risk is to empty your gas canisters completely.
How To Dispose of Camping Gas Canisters – 5 Simple Methods
1. Recycle in your recycling bin
Every locality is different. Many accept completely empty Jetboil-style camping gas canisters as part of your regular steel recycling program. You just have to make sure that you completely empty the remaining fuel by puncturing the canister. Jetboil has their Crunchit Recycling Tool which makes emptying camping gas containers simple.
Many recycling systems are more stringent with the 1 lb propane cylinders (Coleman propane tank). These too can be punctured, however many recycling systems will not accept them with curbside recycling.
2. Contact your local recycling center
Your local waste management company may accept disposable gas cylinders as part of their standard collection program. If not, they will know how to dispose of camping gas canisters safely and legally. You just have to ask.
3. Contact Your Local Authorities And Enquire About Hazardous Waste Disposal
Most counties provide free, or cheap, recycling drop-off facilities or often a hazardous waste disposal site. Our country provides a number of drop-off sites with convenient hours when you can bring your hazardous waste, including camping gas canisters.
The only downside to your local transfer station is that you usually have to save up a bunch of them to make the trip worthwhile.
4. Contact A Local Hazardous Waste Disposal Company
If the above do not work, look for a hazardous waste disposal company in your area. While this option will not be free, it will help keep these steel canisters out of landfills and ensure they are disposed of safely.
5. Find A Gas Bottle Exchange In Your Area
Many companies that sell gas canisters will also accept the empty canisters. Check with your local retailers and outdoor shops to see if they will accept them. REI used to offer this service for customers, but many stores have since stopped.
6. Contact A Propane Tank Dealer
Your last option is to contact a local propane dealer. They specialize in working with propane and other flammable gases and will likely be able to help you dispose of your camping gas canisters.
Can you puncture a camping gas canister safely at home?
Yes. In order to recycle a camping gas canister safely, it must be punctured. There are a number of options that can be done at home with basic tools and experience.
The most important factor is to avoid causing a spark. Methods that cause a spark can ignite the remaining gas of what seems like an empty canister and cause it to explore.
Puncturing your gas canister should be done in a well-ventilated area away from heat sources or open flames. This works with all types of refillable camping gas cylinders, including the standard 1 pound Coleman fuel canisters.
Step 1 – Make sure your small canister is empty
This step may seem trivial, but it is the only way reduce the risk of explosion. The easiest method is to connect your empty gas cylinder to your camp stove, turn the stove on, and wait for the flam to go out. If your stove will not light, then it is likely empty.
Step 2 – Poke a hole in the empty gas canister
There are a couple of options. If you have a Jetboil or MSR style canister, then you can use the Jetboil Crunchit Recycling Tool.
That being said, you do not need a special tool. You can use either a can opener or, as we do, a screwdriver and hammer. Just place the screwdriver towards the top of the canister, hold it steady, and hit the end with a hammer. After a couple of tries you will puncture the metal and hear a small amount of cas escape.
You do not have to overthink this step. It is quite easy and not that dangerous if you use common sense and follow the precautions above.
Step 3 – Recycle
Once the empty fuel canisters are safe of any leftover fuel, then they can be recycled as mixed metals. They are no longer considered hazardous waste and does not need special treatment.
Hot to Dispose of Empty Camping Gas Canisters – Recap
There you have it, six safe ways to recycle your old canisters. Empty gas canisters can be handled safely and often recycled as part of your standard recycling program as long as they have been punctured to remove any remaining flammable gas.
The best way to dispose of your used canister is to empty it using the three steps above and recycle it as part of a normal mixed metals recycling program.