Helium is the second lightest substance in the universe. The gas is used in filling party balloons, super-cooling metals and alloys used as superconductors, and conducting experiments.
However, helium is also very hard to capture and keep pressurized.
If you have a helium tank that you’re not using, then there’s no reason to simply throw it out. There are proper ways to dispose of it.
Disposing of Empty Helium Tanks
Helium tanks are made of different metals mixed. Hence, even when they’re past their prime, they offer a lot of value to scrap dealers or spare part dealers.
However, they shouldn’t be thrown in the trash if you can avoid it.
If you have an empty tank of helium, you need the following supplies to dispose of it.
- Flat-head Screwdriver
- Protective Eyewear and Gloves
- Permanent Marker
The procedure is pretty simple. You should first open the green valve on the tank and turn it counter-clockwise until it stops.
Then, push down on the black tilt nozzle. This releases the pressure. If you don’t hear a hissing sound at first, you should press down even further.
You should keep pushing down until the hissing sound has stopped. Make sure that you can get rid of the helium by giving it to a lab or a store that needs it. Don’t waste it.
Then, you should remove the tilted nozzle by turning the white-colored valve nut in the counter-clockwise direction. Next, put on some protective gloves and eyewear.
Make sure to have regulation goggles. It’s not enough to wear just thick glasses. Next, you should use the hammer and flat-head screwdriver to puncture the small relief disc.
This is located behind the shoulder. If it doesn’t pry open at once, keep at it. You may have to puncture a few places in the ring around the disc to fully remove it.
After the disc has been dislocated, you can remove it by hand. The edges may be sharp, so that’s why you have gloves on. You should proceed with caution even so.
The open hole should then be marked with a circle and with the word “Empty.” Use a permanent marker instead of a fountain pen or a removable marker.
Also, make sure that the marker is black or in contrast to the color of the tank. For black tanks, you can use a silver marker.
Recycling a Helium Tank
You can also dispose of your helium tank by recycling it through a supplier.
The helium tank will have markings on it if it can be reused. If you know who you purchased the helium tank from in the first place, you should go straight to them.
A lot of helium tanks can be reused. Not only does it save resources and money, but it helps the environment. A lot of helium stores may even offer you cash rewards for tanks that are in good condition.
If you do plan to use helium again then it’s a good idea to keep the tank on hand. You can just have it refilled afterward.
You can also give the helium container to a refuse center. If it’s over 5 gallons, they have specific protocols to take care of it. Household hazardous waste departments at the refuse center are well equipped for this task. What’s more, the service is usually offered freely.
Throwing Away Helium Containers
For any containers that are over 5 gallons, you should not throw them away. Properly disposing of them is extremely important. For those that aren’t over 5 gallons, you should dispose of them in the garbage.
Helium tanks of smaller volumes are completely disposable. There are specific protocols to dispose of them within garbage dumps.
Make sure that all the pressure has been released so it can be safely disposed of. Turn the top valve to its left to release the pressure. Pressurized helium tanks can put garbage disposal workers in a lot of danger.
You can also dispose of helium tanks in designated fire halls and city landfills called “throw ‘n go” areas.
In designated fire halls there are special protocols in place to pick up and dispose of helium tanks. While it is designated for industrial businesses, it can also be used by individuals that are dumping old tanks.
For city landfills, you should comply with the landfill regulations to dump old helium tanks there. Make sure that you’ve complied with the standards of emptying the tank and marking it.
However, other specific regulations that may be set by city, state or federal governments should also be followed. These are set for the safety of the workers at the landfill. Don’t endanger their lives for the sake of your convenience.
Again, if you can help it, make sure the gas is donated to a lab or a store. Don’t just release it into the atmosphere.
While Helium is not combustible in the least, it is a light gas that can damage the surroundings.
This is why it’s stored under such high pressure. Helium is an inert gas that doesn’t react with anything so it won’t combust in the presence of chemicals. However, that doesn’t mean it’s a safe bet for you to keep it next to a heat source.
What to do if you have extra helium?
If you have bought some helium in the past few years you must know of the worldwide Helium crisis going on. Helium can only be extracted along with reserves of natural gas. However, the extraction process is quite difficult and costly.
This is why a lot of natural gas refineries elect to simply release the helium into the air without actually capturing it. The reserves of Helium have depleted around the world, while the largest is now in Qatar.
The US is facing an acute shortage which has driven up the price of helium and that has put a burden on local business.
If you do have a helium tank with some extra helium which was never used, then consider donating it. You can donate it to a local business or a research lab. Helium can be used to fill up balloons at party stores and in science experiments.
The helium crisis has put a lot of these stores and labs out of business. Over the past few years, the prices of helium have risen considerably and many times.
Helium supply is also dwindling, specifically in the United States. A lot of great research and a lot of great businesses will completely end if you don’t donate the excess helium you have.
What’s more, MRI scanners use helium to take scans. A lot of people’s health depends on these MRI scans. Without the gas, the detection of some tumors and other nervous lesions goes undetected.
Using these tips you can get rid of helium tanks pretty easily.
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