Environment Magazine

Can You Recycle Fire Extinguishers? (And Are They Hazardous Waste?)

Posted on the 10 March 2021 by Rinkesh @ThinkDevGrow

Can You Recycle Fire Extinguishers?

One of the human’s inherent actions is limiting or preventing hazards. For years, humans have devised ways to tackle what we consider dangerous or hazards in our everyday lives. In today’s world, one of the ways we have devised to tackle danger is manufacturing a fire extinguisher, which is used as a response to a fire outbreak.

Without a doubt, fire extinguishers have helped to prevent or mitigate fire disasters in homes, offices and public places. This explains why it is considered one of the necessary tools you must have in your buildings and vehicles.

Fire-Extinguishers

But then, with this frequent use comes the concern of what happens to the fire extinguisher after the content has been exhausted? This raises critical concerns for our environment. And as environmentalists, we have decided to consider this and see whether fire extinguishers are affecting our environment negatively.

This post will be filled with a lot of information you have been yearning for. So, you can’t afford to miss it for anything. If you are ready for this, let’s dive in quickly and enjoy every bit of it.

Are Fire Extinguishers Recyclable?

In America today, there is a tendency that fire extinguishers are in every building and car you will come across. Since safety means a lot to everyone, we really can’t argue that the possession of these fire extinguishers should be reduced. We should rather consider if these fire extinguishers are capable of being recycled when the content is exhausted.

For fire extinguishers, though they are made with metal and plastic materials, which are considered recyclable materials, there are still doubts about whether they are recyclable. This is partly because fire extinguishers are considered hazardous waste, which requires expertise in their disposal and management after use.

Also, it is difficult to find local recycling stations that will be willing to accept your fire extinguishers for recycling because the process requires many efforts and demands the use of some standard techniques with regards to metal recycling. Often, your local recycling station doesn’t possess all these, so what it does is excuse fire extinguishers from the list of recyclable materials they accept.

If you want to recycle your fire extinguishers, you would have to consider the options of top recycling stations in your state or the country. If you find one, you still have to confirm if it accepts fire extinguishers for recycling and the station’s policy on fire extinguishers. All these would properly guide you in recycling your fire extinguishers.

In all that you do, one thing you should avoid doing is putting your fire extinguishers in your recycling bin. This is dangerous and could cause harm to you or the people around you. Fire extinguishers are considered hazardous wastes because they are filled with pressurized chemicals.

These pressurized chemicals are explosive and could give in to pressure anytime and explode. You don’t want this kind of situation for you or the people around you. So, it is better to keep your fire extinguishers separately until you find a recycling station ready to accept them for recycling.

Are Fire Extinguishers Hazardous Waste?

Yes, fire extinguishers are considered hazardous waste. The reason this is so is because of the content and the use of the fire extinguishers.

Though used to put out a fire, fire extinguishers contain pressurized chemicals that are explosive in certain conditions. This is why it is always advised that fire extinguishers should not be stuffed in the recycling bin with other recyclable materials because of the tendency to explode and injure people.

As a hazardous waste, this means you can’t deal with fire extinguishers anyhow you like when they are expired, or you exhaust them. So, what do you do in this situation?

There are many Household Hazardous Waste management organizations that you can reach out to attend to your fire extinguishers’ disposal. Usually, you have to have gathered these fire extinguishers in good numbers before you call your Household Hazardous Waste Management organization. Sometimes, you might be asked to depressurize the fire extinguishers before disposal.

All these are for your safety, and it will be in your best interest to stick religiously to them.

Are Fire Extinguishers Bad For The Environment?

It might be hard to wrap our minds around the thought of considering whether fire extinguishers that have helped to prevent and mitigate fire disasters are bad for the environment. The environment is important to everyone, and no chance should be taken at considering what might be harmful to it. So, to the big question, are fire extinguishers bad for the environment?

Unfortunately, fire extinguishers may be bad for the environment. This sounds like bad news already but wait, let us explain why this is so.

First of all, the nature of fire extinguishers makes them items that are not preferred for recycling. Even though fire extinguishers are made entirely with materials like metal and plastic that are considered highly recyclable.

In most cases, recycling them requires standard procedures for metal recycling which the local recycling stations do not have. The implication is that many used fire extinguishers would end up in the landfills, where they are likely to cause problems for the environment.

Also, fire extinguishers are made with iron and plastics, which do not break down quickly. Metal and plastic materials take up hundreds of years to breakdown. This means that when these fire extinguishers end up in the landfill, they remain there for a long time without nowhere to go.

Even if the fire extinguishers finally biodegrade, they still cause a problem for the environment. The metal materials, for instance, reduce the nutrients of the soil where it breaks down. Also, the plastic materials only reduce to microplastic when they break down, which reduces the soil’s nutrients and stunts the plant’s growth.

Can You Throw Away Fire Extinguishers?

As humans, we often find it easy to throw away the things we are no longer in need of. While this may be good for some household items, it doesn’t apply in all cases. In the case of a fire extinguisher, you are advised not to throw it away.

The reason for this is because fire extinguishers are considered hazardous waste. As such, they will need a special procedure for their disposal. This is why you should always call on your hazardous waste management authority if you want to dispose of fire extinguishers.

Putting fire extinguishers in your waste bin can be a trigger of some environmental hazards. Fire extinguishers contain pressurized chemicals which can explode under certain conditions.

The best thing to do with your used fire extinguisher is to gather them in a safe place and call on your hazardous waste management authority to come to pick them up. This way, you are not just ensuring safety in your environment; you are also ensuring proper disposal of your fire extinguishers.

Are Old Fire Extinguishers Worth Anything?

Most times, it is difficult to throw away old things that have once been useful. Usually, we want to find some value for ourselves, which has often led us to ask if the old things we have are worth anything.

With regards to fire extinguishers, this same question is being asked. Well, we will provide the answer in an instant.

Yes, fire extinguishers are worth something. If you have an antique fire extinguisher in your home, office, or cars, you should hold on to it even when you have exhausted the content. This is because the antique fire extinguishers have been made with brass and copper casting, which are in high demand in some quarters.

Many antique fire extinguishers are priced based on their rarity, type and condition. The implication of this is that the older and scarce your fire extinguisher is; the better value you will get for it. Also, since you will be exchanging your fire extinguisher for value, you must ensure it is still in usable condition. If it requires some repairs, you should do it to get better value for the fire extinguisher.

In exchanging your fire extinguisher for some monetary value, you can check out some platforms that permit auctioning, especially if you are dealing with antique fire extinguishers. You can also check out platforms like eBay, Facebook or Instagram to market your valuable fire extinguishers.

In all, your old fire extinguishers are still of good value today. To get the best deal, you will need good negotiation and marketing skills.

How Do You Dispose Of Expired Fire Extinguishers?

There is a proper way to dispose of almost everything humans have ever possessed. But then, the problem has always been finding out what the proper way is. For fire extinguishers, not many people know how to properly dispose of them. This is why this segment will be paying close attention to how you can adapt to the proper disposal of your expired fire extinguisher.

If you have an expired fire extinguisher, the first thing to confirm is if the content has been exhausted. If it seems that the content has been exhausted, you still have to press down the nozzle to eradicate any extra content.

If the content has not been exhausted, then you can release it yourself. However, there are ways to do this. If your fire extinguisher has powder content, then you should stay clear of it. This is because emptying the content will require the attention of specialists. But for other types of content, with care, you should be able to handle it.

For a fire extinguisher with foam content, you can empty it into the sewer drain. The ones with water can be emptied into the drain. While the ones with carbo0n dioxide can be emptied into the air.

Disposing of fire extinguishers doesn’t end when you empty the content. You still have to dispose of the canister. Though the canisters are made with metal materials, the best way to dispose of them is to allow your hazardous waste management authority to have them. This way, you are sure that the best practice would be employed in dealing with the expired fire extinguishers.

Since the fire extinguishers are expired, we can’t advise that you give them out to loved ones or donate them. Due to their state, no one can surely predict the harm they are capable of causing. The best way is to treat them as hazardous wastes and allow the right authority to handle them.

On second thought, if you live in a state with a recycling station with the capacity to recycle fire extinguishers, you can send the fire extinguishers to that recycling station.

As far as we are concerned, these are the means you can employ to deal with your expired fire extinguishers. Because fire extinguishers are considered hazardous waste, anything aside from the ways explained above may trigger an environmental hazard.

Conclusion

Fire extinguishers might have helped us in many ways. Still, if we don’t take proper care of them, they may cause harm to the environment we all live in. You have seen above the various things you need to do to ensure that fire extinguishers don’t pose problems to our environment. The ball is now in your court!

References:

https://www.ehs.gatech.edu/chemical/lsm/9-4

https://www.guardianfireprotection.com/blog/what-to-do-with-a-expired-fire-extinguisher

https://antiques.lovetoknow.com/antique-tools-hardware/how-much-is-antique-fire-extinguisher-worth

Fire-Extinguishers

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