Around 50 million people use propane tanks in the US alone, mostly for cooking, heating and grilling. Proper propane tank disposal is vital, not only to protect the environment, but also your safety and that of others.
How do to dispose of propane tanks
You can’t just throw an unwanted propane tank in the trash. Propane is highly flammable – that’s why it’s such a perfect fuel, but it also means that propane tanks are considered hazardous waste, and proper propane tank disposal is a must.
Even if they’re empty, these tanks can still be highly dangerous, as they may contain small amounts of propane that can catch fire or explode when exposed to high temperatures or pressure.
As they technically count as hazardous waste, sanitation departments won’t accept propane tanks with regular trash. For the same reason, most recycling centers won’t take them either.
However, there are a few ways to properly dispose of your old propane tanks without them polluting the environment or getting you into legal trouble.
Exchange for a refill
Exchanging the propane tank for a refill is the best option if the tank is in good condition and you want to keep using propane for your camp stove, portable heater, or barbecue grill.
In this case, you should simply find a propane supplier near you and exchange your empty tank for a full one, for a fee.
You can also exchange your propane tank at many hardware stores, convenience stores, and gas stations. These depots are often self-serve, so you can exchange the tank yourself anytime, day or night.
Entire propane tank disposal
However, if you want to get rid of the tank completely, you’ll need to find a way to dispose of it entirely. A corroded or dented tank also cannot be exchanged or refilled, nor can any tank that is past its expiry date, as this is not safe. So your only option in such a case is to dispose of the tank.
To do this you have two main options:
1. Arrange a pickup
Propane gas suppliers often run pick up programs for large tanks, though these typically don’t accept smaller propane tanks. They’ll generally come to your home or business, remove the tank, and then either replace it or simply take it away for safe disposal, depending on your preference.
Contact a propane supplier in your area and ask them if they run a pick up service like this. If you want to know if your tank is still OK to use or if you should get rid of it, you can also ask them to come and take a look.
2. Go to a hazardous waste center
There are a few recycling centers that specialize in hazardous items like propane tanks. Recycling propane tanks through specialist centers like this is by far the best way to dispose of small tanks that aren’t accepted through pickup programs.
Call your local sanitation department and ask them if they run, or are aware of, any recycling centers like this in your area. Another option is to call propane gas suppliers and ask them to direct you.
Equally, a local recycling center that doesn’t accept hazardous waste should be able to tell you the closest one that does.
How to prepare a propane tank for disposal
You can’t load your old propane tank into the car and then drop it off at a recycling facility. As hazardous waste, you need to prep it for proper propane tank disposal.
To do this:
- Check that the propane tank is actually empty. The easiest way to do this is by looking at the tare weight, which should be stamped on the collar or handle of the tank. This is the weight of the tank when empty – so weigh your tank, and if it is the same as the listed tare, you’ll know it’s empty.
- Check that the propane tank is not damaged or leaking. Visually inspect the tank, valves, and dials and make sure there is no rust, carbon build up, or dents.
- Store it appropriately. It’s important to store the tank properly while you’re waiting to take it for disposal to ensure it doesn’t get damaged, or represent a safety risk, in the meantime.
It’s equally important to make sure you’re storing your propane tank correctly from the get go. Improper storage can lead to damage or rusting and this can shorten the life of the tank, meaning you’ll have to replace it more frequently. Always store propane tanks outside under cover, and away from direct sunlight or any source of heat.
Failing to store a propane tank properly could also cause it to ignite or explode – regardless whether it’s full or empty. So it’s vital to follow these guidelines!
Looking after your propane tanks will also help to extend their useful life.
Care for your propane tank by:
- Regularly inspecting the tank’s valves, dials, and indicators and take your tank to a propane supplier if you notice any problems
- Store the tank under cover, in a well-ventilated area outside your house
- Keep an eye out for soot, kinks, and corrosion, and if you spot any of these, ask your propane supplier for advice on how to address them
Propane tanks are an inherently hazardous item, so it’s essential to handle them properly. Here are the answers to common doubts and concerns about propane tank disposal to help you do this safely and responsibly.
Is propane tank disposal difficult?
Propane tanks are classified as hazardous waste, making them somewhat difficult to dispose of. These tanks need to be prepared properly, then taken to an appropriate facility that can handle them properly.
Will the garbage man take propane tanks?
No, you cannot put propane tanks out with your regular garbage. Even seemingly empty tanks can ignite if exposed to high temperatures, or explode under pressure.
As trash can often be subject to both of these conditions, it’s simply too dangerous to handle. Therefore, you’ll need to either exchange your propane tank for a refill, or responsibly dispose of it through a propane gas supplier or a recycling center specializing in hazardous waste.
How do you empty a propane tank at home?
It’s best to take a full or mostly-full propane tank to a propane gas supplier. They’ll be able to recover the gas and use it to refill other tanks, thus making the most of this non-renewable resource.
In fact, it’s best to leave this to the professionals in all cases, as dealing with propane gas can be hazardous.
However, if you absolutely must empty your propane tank at home and are able to take the appropriate safety precautions, you can follow these steps:
- Put on appropriate safety equipment, including thick gloves, protective eyewear, and closed shoes
- Disconnect the propane tank and take it to an open, well-ventilated area
- Tilt it on its side with care
- Open the tank’s valve completely to let the propane out, then step back while it empties
- You’ll see the propane escaping from the tank – once you can’t see it anymore, this means it’s empty
- Close the valve tightly and store the tank in an appropriate place until you take it for disposal
How do I dispose of a 500 gallon propane tank?
For large propane tanks up to 500 gallons, you can arrange a pick up through a propane gas supplier. Contact your supplier or any similar company in your area and ask for them to come to remove your tank.
Most gas suppliers offer a service where they will either exchange your tank or remove it for proper disposal.
Dispose of your propane tanks responsibly
Proper propane tank disposal is somewhat challenging, but it is very important. These tanks are considered hazardous waste even when empty, so failing to dispose of them appropriately could represent a safety risk and damage the environment, not to mention land you in legal trouble.
Your best option is to exchange your propane tank for a refill, but if you need to dispose of it entirely, you can either arrange for a pick up, for large tanks, or drop small tanks off at a hazardous waste recycling facility.