Fire extinguishers are very effective fire fighting tools, and this is due to the materials they are made of and the contents they hold. However, eventually fire extinguishers will be spent or age so much that they are no longer safe to use. So, when this happens, can fire extinguishers be disposed of? Find out below.
Are Fire Extinguishers Disposable?
Yes, many fire extinguishers are disposable. In fact, some fire extinguishers can only be thrown away and not recharged or recycled. This has much to do with the brand that makes the fire extinguisher.
Some environmentally conscious users, or city ordinances, require fire extinguishers be recycled. Fire extinguishers are made of aluminum and steel, which are great metals for recycling.
The only way to make sure what to do with a fire extinguisher after it is no longer useable is to read the back label and any available instructions provided with the unit upon purchase.
When To Dispose Of A Fire Extinguisher
Fire extinguishers are powerful tools for fighting fires, but need to have the right amount of pressure and contents to function properly. This is very important as a fire extinguisher can determine whether or not people nearby remain safe in the event of a fire.
Here are some important factors that determine when a fire extinguisher should be disposed of:
- The needle is in the red zone on the the handle guage.
- The shell or valve is damaged.
- The fire extinguisher is more than 10 years old.
- Rust or corrosion is present.
- The instructions have been damaged and are illegible.
- It fails a hydrostatic test to determine fire cylinder integrity.
- It is rechargeable, but too old to find replacement parts.
Many of these issues can be spotted by a fire safety technician doing a routine maintenence check. If you are unsure whether your fire extinguisher is capable of performing when it needs to, consider calling one of these technicians to check it out for you.
How To Dispose Of Fire Extinguishers
Fire extinguishers must be disposed of or recycled when they can no longer operate properly. However, some fire extinguisher contain toxic chemicals that present health risks. This means, they cannot just be thrown away in the normal trash.
If the fire extinguisher still has a charge, it may need to be drained. This can be done by the owner or with the assistance of a fire protection professional (fireman, technician, etc.).The cylinder must be emptied and the head and valve component properly removed before it can be disposed of.
Where To Dispose Of Fire Extinguishers
If the cylinder is completely empty, it can be taken to a disposal facility, local fire department, or fire supply company. However, since the cylinder is made of steel, it can easily be recycled if this option is available.
A fire extinguisher should never be disposed of in an ordinary curbside garbage can. This is because a fire extinguisher that still has pressure has a chance of explosion. So, if it is dropped or hit by a passing vehicle, it could cause serious damage or injury.
How Much Does Fire Extinguisher Disposal Cost?
Disposing of an old fire extinguisher may cost nothing. Or, there could be a disposal fee if it is taken to a waste disposal operation. A local household hazardous waste (HHW) program may be available which can accept the pressurized cylinder and any remaining contents. These programs accept all sorts of materials and chemicals used in homes and garages, such as aerosol spray cans and cleaning chemicals.
A local fire department or fire supply store also may be able to take the fire extinguisher at no cost. However, industrial or commercial fire extinguishers that spray toxic chemicals will probably cost money to dispose of.
Like all products and safety equipment, fire extinguisher do not last forever and must be disposed of in the right manner. Just make sure to have a replacement ready to go when the old unit is no longer functional.
Nick Klamecki is a certified Fire and Workplace Safety expert with 15 years experience in product research and testing. He has a degree in Economics from U.C. Davis, is an active outdoorsman and spent years ensuring the safety of special needs children. Nick researches and tests workplace, industrial and safety products and provides advice on their safe use.