How to Dispose of CO2 Tanks (Carbon Dioxide Tanks)

Searching for the best way to dispose of CO2 gas tanks and cylinders is an age-old dilemma. These days, most of the CO2 gas is available in small transportable cylinders or tanks.

These are usually made out of aluminum or steel. Some companies consider them regular waste and treat them as scrap metal. Other companies think CO2 cylinders and tanks to be hazardous.

Hence, they believe in following specific guidelines for their disposal.

Due to the increasing threat of terrorism and environmentalist movements nowadays, disposing of cylinders as regular waste can present some issues.

Empty CO2 cylinders with some pressure level can attract unwanted attention if found with the rest of the company’s waste. Toxicity and combustion labels on these tanks can make matters worse.

At the most basic level, disposing of CO2 tanks requires understanding the hazard behind improper disposal.

There are four ways to dispose of empty COS tanks, including recycling and landfill disposal. Before we look at these ways in detail, let us understand the hazard presented by compressed CO2 gas.

The Hazards of Carbon Dioxide Gas Tanks

CO2 is a colorless and odorless gas. It is denser than air.

High concentrations of CO2 are usually found in open pits and other areas below grade. In a gas tank or cylinder, CO2 is found in compressed form, which increases its hazard.

Gaseous carbon dioxide is an asphyxiant gas. This means it can cause unconsciousness or even death by suffocation in as little as 10 to 15 minutes. CO2 concentrations of 10% or more can lead to these results.

On the other hand, lower concentrations have milder effects such as sweating, headache, rapid breathing, dizziness, increased heartbeat, shortness of breath, depression, shaking, and even visual disturbances.

The seriousness of these symptoms depends on the concentration of CO2 present and the amount of time for which the individual is exposed.

The hazard of asphyxiation exists when CO2 gas is dispensed from tanks (such as cargo, truck, and trailer tanks) and portable containers to low-pressure gas supply systems on sites.

For example, a system used for supplying CO2 gas at a beverage dispensing site or a greenhouse can malfunction. This can release CO2 into the environment and cause asphyxiation.

Because of the abovementioned hazards, only trained employees must use or handle compressed gases such as CO2 in tanks.

All employers must inform their employees about the chemical hazards of CO2 gas during a side induction or through a hazard communication program.

For specific information regarding handling, storage and safety, refer to the tank manufacturer’s safety data sheets.

How to Dispose of Empty CO2 Gas Tanks

Disposing of CO2 gas tanks without emptying them is not recommended at all. Since a CO2 tank contains compressed and pressurized gas, it can cause severe injury or death if the pressure is released too quickly.

This happens if the tank gets crushed or punctured.

The first step to disposing of CO2 gas tanks is to make sure they are empty. Here’s how you can empty a CO2 gas tank:

Manually discharge the tank by compressing the trigger at the top of the tank. Be careful while doing this because exposure to a large amount of compressed gas can result in injuries such as frostbite.

Make sure your hands are gloved and use a screwdriver or any other similar tool to hold down the trigger. Make sure you are in a well-ventilated area while performing this step.

Once you have emptied your CO2 gas tanks, here are four ways in which you can dispose of them:

1. Recycle Them

The best way to dispose of empty CO2 tanks and cylinders is to recycle them with other scrap metal. Before you send aluminum cylinders to a recycling company, ensure that you completely empty them and remove the valves.

Many recycling facilities require that you remove the valve and cut the cylinder half before depositing it at their facility.

To remove the valve of your tank, place it in a vise. Then, use force, some elbow grease, and a unique tool to separate it from the cylinder entirely.

If your facility requires that you send in a punctured cylinder, please puncture it only if you are sure it is empty.

Needless to say, many people find this process of removing the valve, puncturing the cylinder, or cutting it in half quite tiresome.

This commonly leads to a delay in recycling, especially for large corporations, until it becomes absolutely necessary.

2. Dispose of Them in a Landfill

If you don’t wish to recycle your CO2 tank, you can also choose to send it to a landfill. Individuals who own gas cylinders, such as divers and corporations, must ensure that the cylinders are safe for disposal.

They must be emptied, and you must remove the valve before sending them to an authorized waste management facility.

Most landfills accept gas cylinders as long as they are empty. Empty tanks and cylinders do not pose any threat to the environment. To qualify as “empty,” your CO2 tanks must not contain any liquid residue at any cost.

It should be clean internally so you can achieve gas mixture stability.

If you are confused about how you can measure the amount of liquid residue, here’s an example for comparison.

A typical propane cylinder or an empty spray paint used commonly in households contains more liquid residue to harm the environment than a gas cylinder.

3. Return Them to Their Owner

Most corporations and contractors employ the services of CO2 tank manufacturers when putting up fire safety measures around their premises.

If your CO2 tank has emptied and you no longer require it, then the simplest way to dispose of it is to return it to its owner (a gas company).

You can quickly identify the owner of a CO2 tank by studying the label and color codes. Usually, the owner’s name will also be permanently marked on the cylinder or stamped into the metal on the shoulder of the cylinder.

Even if the cylinder does not originally belong to the site where it was discovered, you can ask the gas company that owns the cylinder to make arrangements to collect it.

If you believe that your CO2 tank is not safe or compliant, ask the owner for advice to counter this problem before you hand over the tank to them.

They will work with you to make the tank safe before making the necessary arrangements to collect it from you.

4. Refill or Resell Them

If you are not ready to part with your CO2 tank just yet, you can take it to an authorized gas store to have it refilled! Most CO2 tanks have an expiration date stamped on them.

If yours runs out of gas before it reaches its expiry, have it refilled! How long a CO2 tank lasts will depend on several factors, such as the temperate you keep the tank at.

If you want to get rid of your CO2 tank and earn some money, why not sell it?

You can easily resell your tank once it is empty. You can ask your local paintball supply store if they might buy it from you or might be able to help you find a buyer.

Disposing of Unidentified or Damaged Carbon Dioxide Cylinders

A mentioned earlier, the compressed gas in a gas tank can pose a significant risk to the environment and human safety.

This risk increases if you do not handle the tank with care or are unaware of the tank’s contents.

If you don’t know what’s inside a gas tank, assume the worst.

You must handle such a tank and dispose of it as if it contains the most hazardous gas on the planet.

If you have access to disposal or hazardous waste facilities, ask them to identify the contents for you. They can also help you safely dispose of the tank along with its contents.

If your filled CO2 tank has a damaged valve or shoulder, most landfills or disposal facilities will not accept it.

In fact, it is illegal in most places to ship filled tanks with damaged valves. If your tank has leaks or has a damaged valve, ask your local disposal facility to transfer its contents safely.

What to Do with Filled CO2 Tanks

How many times have you heard about a family losing a loved one due to a gas cylinder explosion?

Numerous times, we bet. It is essential to recognize the potential danger that gas tanks represent and correctly dispose of them.

If you have a filled CO2 tank that you do not need anymore, you need to take extra precautions while disposing of it.

It is highly dangerous to throw your unwanted CO2 gas tank with the rest of your waste. Since these tanks are pressurized, they can explode if they are crushed.

If you are in possession of a full or partially full CO2 gas tank, some organizations and facilities will be able to recycle the unused gas for you. Get in touch with them before you take any further action.

Final Words

The disposal of gases like CO2 is a major global concern.

Make sure that you are well-informed about your local, state, and federal laws while disposing of CO2 tanks.

Both individuals and businesses need to take extra precautions to ensure employee safety and reduce the environmental impact of these dangerous gases.

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