This coming Labour Day weekend, British Columbians enjoying outdoor activities such as camping, picnics and barbecues may have empty or partially-used gas cylinders left over.
Unfortunately, improper disposal of hazardous cylinders by putting them in the recycling bin creates a serious fire risk. The most common types of high-risk items this time of year are disposable propane cylinders, butane cans and lighter fluid containers. Other examples include reusable propane canisters, helium balloon cylinders and oxygen cylinders used for home health. Because compressed gases are under high pressure, the cylinder may explode or burst when heated or dropped. Small sparks can cause flammable and combustible material to catch fire.
This video of a propane tank explosion at a recycling facility shows how serious the effects of improper disposal can be.
So, how should these potentially dangerous items be properly recycled?
Recycle BC, the not-for-profit organization that is responsible for residential packaging and paper recycling throughout the province, is providing tips to make disposal of gas cylinders easy and safe.
1. Don’t put gas cylinders or other hazardous items in the recycling bin. Compressed gas cylinders are dangerous when included with curbside, multi-family building or depot recycling. These cylinders pose a risk to worker safety, as they may explode during transportation or processing.
2. Take gas cylinders to the depot. The Recycling Council of British Columbia’s Recyclepedia allows you to search for a nearby depot by selecting which item you need to recycle, and where you live. You can also call their recycling hotline at 1-800-667-4321, or email email@example.com.
3. Download the app. Recycle BC’s free recycling app for both Apple and Android devices tells you where materials belong for proper recycling or where to get more information even for items that aren’t part of the Recycle BC program, such as hazardous cylinders.
Cell phone and computer batteries also present an explosion and fire risk to recycling crews. Just like compressed gas cylinders, these materials should be taken to the nearest depot, participating retailer, or another safe disposal site for recycling.