A fire is a fire – it cannot be postponed and the fire extinguisher in your house is meant to help you in that case. However, we can’t deny that fire extinguishers at times end up spent and no longer functional. Many would believe that they totally can not recycle fire extinguishers while in fact they can be.
Can You Recycle A Fire Extinguisher?
Yes, you can recycle a fire extinguisher. Fire extinguishers are made of very recyclable materials, including steel and aluminum.
The remaining chemicals inside a used fire extinguisher are likely chemically inert and non-toxic. The MSDS data sheet for that particular extinguisher will tell what these chemicals are. Some fire extinguishers may have toxic chemicals in them, so it is important to have these recycled in the proper place.
Non-toxic fire extinguisher chemicals include:
- Non-toxic fire extinguisher chemicals include:
- Mono ammonium sulfate
- Sodium bicarbonate
- Potassium bicarbonate
The biggest issue with recycling old fire extinguishers has to do with safety. These potential dangers include:
- Explosions occurring from pressurized contents.
- Old fire extinguisher may contain carcinogens, such as carbon terachloride.
- How and where to dipose of old contents prior to recycling the metal container.
This is why it is important to know where and how to recycle a used fire extinguisher, so as to not risk anyone’s safety.
When To Recycle A Fire Extinguisher
It is time to recycle a fire extinguisher if it is unable to recharged and has run out of sprayable pressure and contents.
But first, you must be sure the guage that says the pressure is low is not faulty, when in fact there is enough left. To do this, you can test the fire extinguisher in a plastic garbage bag by pressing on the handle and spraying it. If it seems there is enough pressure and contents left, then the pressure guage is not working properly.
Where To Recycle A Fire Extinguisher?
You can recycle a used fire extinguisher by taking it to your local fire deparment, or dropping it off at your local hazardous waste disposal facility. Some ordinary waste disposal facilities may also take recyclable materials, so check with these as well. The fire department may not be able to take old fire extinguishers so you will need to check with them first.
A local household hazardous waste program (HHW) may accept pressurized metal containers, such as old fire extinguishers. These programs have collection events a few times per year at certain locations in your city. Other toxic or pressure filled products can also be recycled, such as old batteries, aerosol cans, and petroleum products.
Some recycling facilities will only take scrap recyclable metal, which means the fire extinguisher needs to be drained of all its remaining contents prior to dropping it off.
A fire extinguisher and supply company in the area may also take used fire extinguishers and recycle them for you. Those same operations could refill the extinguisher for you as well, for a fee.
Do not, unless advised to by your city recyling program, place an old fire extinguisher in an ordinary curbside recycling bin with your other trash cans. Pressurized fire extinguishers are dangerous and there is the risk of explosion.
How To Recycle A Fire Extinguisher?
Recycling a fire extinguisher is not difficult, and only requires taking a few easy steps.
Before you recycle the extinguisher, check with the recycling agency or center about emptying any remaining contents. You might have to unscrew the trigger mechanism from the tank, pull it out, and empty the tank upside down of any left over chemicals.
Once the aluminum tank is emptied, it can be taken to a local recycling center. Any parts remaining, such as a trigger or handle should be bagged up and placed into a trash bin.
However, before doing this, contact your local fire department or fire supply company and ask them how to do this safely.
How Much Does Recycling A Fire Extinguisher Cost?
Recycling a used fire extinguisher may cost you $0. Or, it could cost up to $20, depending on what location you take it to. There may be a minimum charge required, which is usually $10-15 for certain materials.
You may be able to toss the empty tank into your regular recycling bin, but should be a last resort. Try and take it to a proper recycling center first. If the fire extinguisher is a large commercial fire extinguisher that uses toxic chemicals, it will likely cost money to recycle.
Like all useful tools, fire extinguishers eventually are spent and wear out, requireing them to be disposed of, recharged, or recycled. However, where and how to recycle them is a minor issue compared to having a fully operational fire extinguisher ready for the next fire emergency.
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.