How to Dispose of Aerosol Cans Safely?

Aerosol cans are made of either aluminum or steel. Both of these metals are valuable that can be recycled to produce new metal items.

Recycling International has stated that the US produces an estimated 3.5 billion aerosol cans annually. However, only 30 percent of the cans are recycled.

You should never throw aerosol cans in the bin.

The cans can cause a deadly explosion when being crushed by a garbage disposal truck. So, how to dispose of aerosol cans safely?

1. Donate the Cans

The best option to dispose of aerosol cans is to donate them. You can donate the cans to your local homeless shelter or charity organization. Chances are that they will be happy to take the empty cans.

Donating the empty cans will ensure that you help make a difference in the lives of poor people. You can also try community recycling sites such as This is the option in case no one in your area is ready to accept the cans.

Just make sure that you label the cans properly. This will let them know how to handle the aerosol cans properly.

2. Read the Label

Remember that some aerosol cans contain hazardous items. You should not dispose of these cans similar to a regular can. Check the content of the can. If it contained a hazardous product, you need to take special precautions.

Look for instructions for safe disposal of the can. Make sure you follow instructions on the can to the letter! Call your local hazardous waste disposal facility for more information on proper disposal.

3. Call Municipality Office

You should call your disposal facility to find out if there is a disposal program for aerosol cans. Many big cities have a disposal facility for aerosol cans.

Every municipality has also set policies for safe disposal of the cans. You should find out the regulations by calling or emailing the municipality office.

Municipalities have special equipment for recycling the can. The cans are first punctured to remove the content. Then a magnet separates the steel cans from the aluminum cans.

The cans are next crushed and sent to a center for further processing to salvage metal from the cans.

4. Buy Aerosol Recycling Equipment

Consider buying aerosol can recycling equipment. This is recommended if you have a shop with many empty aerosol cans.

Installation of the equipment is easy. You should join the recycling unit and the filter to a bung and screw the puncturing device in the opening. You should ground the unit using anti-static wires to avoid the build-up of static electricity.

The recycling equipment such as Aerosolv® also consists of a feature to empty the cans. Just insert the can with the nozzle end downwards into the sleeve.

A steel pin will puncture the can that will allow the residual to drain in a drum. Once the drain is empty, you can process the cans for recycling. This will allow you to dispose of thousands of cans in a compliant manner.

5. Take Cans to the Scrap Yard

Your local scrap junkyard may also be willing to take aerosol cans. Before visiting, call them to find out if they take cans.

Many scrap yards pay for the cans. You may not get much if you want to dispose of just one or two cans. But the amount can add up if you have a large number of cans for disposal.

You can also bring other cans such as soda cans to the scrap yard. In this way, you can safely dispose of aerosol cans and also make money along the way.

6. Empty the Cans Before Disposal

Before disposing of the cans, look at the can to make sure that it is empty. If no product comes out, the can is probably empty and can be disposed of safely.

Aerosol cans that are not empty should not be given to the recycling facility. They should be sent to the hazardous waste disposal facility.

Doing this is important since partially full cans explode when punctured in a recycling facility.

The U.S Environmental Protection Agency’s Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) has specified certain criteria.

You must follow the instructions to ensure that the cans are empty.

  • The aerosol can do not contain any propellant gas. In other words, the cans don’t release any pressure through the valve when a button is pressed.
  • No chemical is present inside the can. You can check this by pressing the button and ensure that no chemical comes out of the can.
  • The aerosol can not contain more than 1-inch liquid residue or 3 percent of the net weight of the container.

The above criteria must be met for the can to be considered PCRA empty. Many disposal facilities require the cans to be PCRA empty.

Cans that are empty as per the above criteria are considered scrap metal. They can be sent to a scrap yard or a recycling facility.

You should puncture and triple rinse the can if it contained an acute hazardous waste. The solvent rinse should also be managed using the appropriate hazardous waste handling procedure.

Never pour the solvent in the ground or in the toilet to avoid water contamination.

Why Safe Disposal of Aerosol Cans is Important?

Aerosol cans are pressurized leakproof cans that are either made of aluminum or steel. The cans may also contain flammable gases such as carbon dioxide or nitrous oxide.

These gases act as a propellant pushing the content outside by pushing a button on the top.

Throwing away the cans in the garbage can may not seem to be a big deal. But the fact is that they can cause a deadly explosion.

You can Google news reports about deadly explosions caused by aerosol cans. The cans are dangerous due to the substances that are stored under pressure.

Even if the ingredients of the can are not flammable, it can still ignite turning into a projectile. Many accidents occur when the cans are overheated or crushed in a garbage truck.

There are stories of recycling centers catching fire due to igniting aerosol cans.

Here are some don’ts when it comes to disposing of aerosol cans.

  • Never puncture an aerosol can. Puncturing an aerosol can result in a deadly explosion. Recycle facilities have trained professionals who know how to safely puncture aerosol cans. You should never do this at home.
  • Don’t try to alter the cans in any way. You should not remove the spray nozzle from the can even though it’s made of plastic. However, you can safely remove the plastic lid that is likely recyclable.
  • Avoid storing aerosol cans in areas where they can be exposed to high heat. This is important to avoid the risk of an explosion.

What are the Alternatives to Aerosol Cans?

Aerosol cans are dangerous due to being flammable. These cans pose a great risk of fire. There have been reports of aerosol cans exploding in homes, cars, and garbage trucks.

Moreover, the tiny particles inside the cans that releases when the cans are punctured.

You should use alternatives to aerosol cans wherever possible. Here are some suggested alternatives to common products in aerosol cans.

Use Stick Deodorants

You can swap spray deodorants with stick deodorants.

Consider buying one that contains natural ingredients and free of harmful ingredients.

Buy Non-Pressurized Hair Sprays

Instead of hair spray cans, you should buy non-pressurized hair sprays. You can find a lot of hair sprays and gels in non-pressurized cans. Consider heading to the local store to find out hair sprays in non-pressurized bottles. One example is RevAir’s UP & Atomizer.

Avoid Spray Creams

You can also use a tub of whipped cream instead of a can of cream. A better idea is to whip your own whipped cream at home that doesn’t contain preservatives. This option will be better for the health as well as the environment.

Use Cleaning Products in Glass Spray Bottles

Replace cleaning products in pressurized cans with alternative products. You can make home-made natural cleaning products that can be stored in glass spray bottles.

This allows recycling of the plastic spray bottles resulting in benefits to the environment.

Avoid Spray Paints

You should consider using eco-friendly paints, rollers, and brushes instead of spray paints. You should buy paints containing low volatile organic compounds (VOCs). This will also help improve indoor air quality.


Aerosol cans are used to store different items. They can be used for storing paint, food, and bathroom products. While the cans are safe, the pressurized air inside the cans can be deadly. You need to take proper precautions to avoid any harm to the environment.

Avoid tossing the aerosol can in the garbage bin. The cans may seem to be safe but are deadly if not handled properly.

Safe disposal methods of spray cans are important to avoid a deadly explosion. You should dispose of the cans safely using the tips mentioned in this article.

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