It’s important to dispose of fire extinguishers correctly. Doing so improperly can unleash a series of problems.
To help you avoid those problems, this article will tell you how to dispose of fire extinguishers the right way.
Identify Which Type of Fire Extinguisher You Have
The ratings of fire extinguishers are mentioned on the outer shell. The type of extinguisher you have will determine what you should do to dispose of it.
You can contact your local fire department or hazardous waste disposal facility to learn more about what steps you should take for each type.
There are disposable fire extinguishers and rechargeable ones. You can continue to use the latter after recharging it, but you’ll have to dispose of the former.
Recharge Your Fire Extinguisher at a Fire Safety Equipment Dealer
Fire extinguishers that are still in good condition can be recharged and reused.
Have a fire safety equipment dealer perform a hydrostatic test to see whether your extinguisher is fit for recharging.
Contact the Fire Department for Fully or Partially Charged Fire Extinguishers
Fire extinguishers carry dangerous chemicals in each canister. This means that throwing extinguishers that are fully or partially charged directly into the trash can become a problem.
There is a possibility that the canister may get punctured when you are handling and disposing of it into your everyday trash. A puncture will cause the contents of the canister to leak which can be very dangerous.
Here are two situations in which improper disposal of fully or partially charged fire extinguishers can be dangerous.
Leaky Fire Extinguishers Can be Dangerous
The contents of your fire extinguisher can be poisonous if they manage to get anywhere outside the trash.
Therefore, the best thing for you to do is to contact your local fire department. They will most likely take the extinguisher from you and dispose of it themselves.
You just have to drop it off to them and they’ll take care of the rest. If your local fire department doesn’t accept old fire extinguishers, you can drop it off at your local hazardous waste disposal facility.
It’s important that canisters with contents still within them are disposed of correctly. Hazardous materials should be disposed of in contained environments.
Throwing it in the trash can be bad for you, the people around you, and the environment.
Mishandled Fire Extinguishers Can Explode
Other than the contents of fire extinguishers being potentially hazardous, each canister is pressurized.
This means that it can explode if it is mishandled. This is more common in the case of cartridge-based fire extinguishers; however, it can also happen with foam type and soda-acid type fire extinguishers.
Any mechanical injury or exposure to freezing temperatures can cause the chemicals within the canisters to react differently. This, in turn, can result in an explosion that can be fatal for people around the device.
A study on fire extinguishers discusses an instance in which a soldier lost their lives in an explosion caused by a fire extinguisher.
Therefore, do not throw any fully or partially charged fire extinguishers in the trash if you’re done with them. They are likely to be mishandled and suffer some form of mechanical injury.
This may result in a very dangerous outcome.
Give Your Empty Fire Extinguishers to a Recycling Facility
The disposal of an empty fire extinguisher is less of a problem. You can either trash it or take it to a recycling facility. Ensure that it is empty by pressing the lever and releasing all the pressure out.
Do this in an open area or into a sealed drain so that any remaining foam doesn’t get on you or your furniture. You will know that the canister is empty if nothing happens when you press the lever.
Nevertheless, double-check if it’s empty by removing the head of the canister. You’ll be able to see if there are any contents within it or not.
Wait a few days before you trash the extinguisher or take it to a recycling facility. It’s important for it to sit for a few days so that all of the pressure is released. As mentioned before, mishandling a pressurized container can be extremely dangerous.
It’s important that you don’t throw away this empty shell. If there is no damage to the steel shell, it can be reused for the same purpose.
Thus, take your empty canister to your local recycling facility and have them take care of it. From there, it can be sent for refilling and sold to other buyers. It’s always better for the environment if you recycle your waste instead of dumping it in the trash.
Empty fire extinguishers don’t have any of the potentially hazardous materials or high pressure, so they are a lot safer to handle.
That said, you should still take good care when handling it so that it can be reused for the same purpose. If damaged, it will lose its usefulness.
Take Your Disposable Fire Extinguisher to a Recycling Facility
If you are using a disposable fire extinguisher, you should take it to a recycling center. The steel shell can be used for some other purpose. If your local recycling center informs you that it has no further use, then you can trash the extinguisher.
In this case, too, it is important to ensure that the canister is empty before you get rid of it.
Things to Note When Emptying Fire Extinguishers
It’s best if you don’t completely empty your foam fire extinguisher on your own. Emptying the foam into your bathroom’s drain can cause it to overflow or spill.
This can be problematic considering the foam is slightly hazardous. However, if you do drain it, empty the foam into a sanitary-sewer (i.e. the sewage that runs under your homes and roads) so that it can be treated and filtered.
It’s not safe to release it into any other drains because it can be poisonous if released directly into the river water.
If you are emptying a powder fire extinguisher at home, you should use a fabric bag to empty out its contents. Carry out this process in an open room or garage because it can be messy getting the powder out of the extinguisher.
Clean all the spillages in the room and dispose of the powder bag into the trash. As long as the powder is in the bag, it is safe to dispose of it this way.
Most of you won’t have to concern yourselves with this process because this type of fire extinguisher is rarely used; however, as some of these are still present in homes, we believed it was worth mentioning this.
How Long Your Fire Extinguisher Lasts?
It’s important to know how long an extinguisher lasts so that you know when to dispose of it. If you’ve got a disposable fire extinguisher at home or at the office, you should replace it every 12 years.
These fire extinguishers cannot be recharged, so it can’t be used for the same purpose after its life-span.
Rechargeable fire extinguishers can last you a long time, and you can continue to recharge and use them.
However, there are some situations in which you should dispose of them and get another fire extinguisher in their place. Some of these situations are mentioned below.
Damage to the Outer Shell
Don’t continue to use a fire extinguisher if it has sustained damage on the outer shell. This may eventually lead to a puncture in the canister.
This will result in the contents of the extinguisher leaking out, which will release its potentially hazardous chemicals into your immediate environment.
It’s best to give it to a recycling facility or a hazardous waste disposal facility to avoid any unnecessary accidents.
Loss of Pressure
A fire extinguisher is a highly pressurized canister, and the pressure is sealed in when it’s not used. If you notice a loss of pressure even if you haven’t used it in a while, there may be a leak in your extinguisher.
This is potentially dangerous and the fire extinguisher should be disposed of immediately.
Each part of your fire extinguisher should be in good condition to ensure that it’s safe for use. You shouldn’t use a fire extinguisher that has a wobbly or broken handle, or a cracked or clogged nozzle.
Damaged parts can cause the device to malfunction, which can spell bad news for you in the long run. In addition to that, inspect the extinguisher’s pin. If it shows signs of decay, you should get rid of your extinguisher.
Failed Hydrostatic Test
A fire extinguisher undergoes a hydrostatic test before it is recharged.
This test inspects the integrity of the shell of the extinguisher. If the extinguisher doesn’t pass the test, it is not fit for being recharged and reused. In that case, you should dispose of your fire extinguisher and get another one for your home or office.
Last Few Words
Always handle fire extinguishers with care – this includes during its use and its disposal.
Failure to do so can lower the life-span of your extinguisher, or it can result in extremely dangerous accidents.
You may also find the following articles useful: