Aerosol cans

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Will Ecology adopt the universal waste aerosol cans rule?

In the next dangerous waste rulemaking, we expect to adopt EPA’s new rules for universal waste aerosol cans. These new rules will make it easier for businesses to manage these type of wastes. Until then, businesses must continue to manage aerosol cans according to the guidance below and all applicable dangerous waste regulations.

Businesses that use aerosol cans need to handle these items correctly to protect their workers and the environment. Contents of aerosol cans are:

  • Under pressure.
  • Often toxic.
  • Possibly flammable.

Because of these risks, it's important that businesses dispose of aerosol cans and their contents properly by completely emptying them. Completely empty aerosol cans do not designate as dangerous waste and can be recycled.

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Not a business?

If you are a household or individual looking for ways to recycle household items, please go to 1-800-RECYCLE.

How to empty aerosol cans

Empty aerosol cans do not count as dangerous waste. To completely empty an aerosol can: 

  • Use the aerosol product for its intended purpose until it's gone.
  • Do not deliberately spray out contents just to empty the can.

How do you know when it's empty?

Containers holding compressed gases are empty when:

  • The pressure inside the container is equal or nearly equal to atmospheric pressure,
    AND
  • The contents are completely sprayed out and minimal or no product remains in the can.

How do you dispose of empty aerosol cans?

Recycle empty aerosol cans as scrap metal. Take them to a scrap metal recycling facility near you.

How to dispose of aerosol cans with dangerous contents

If you are unable to empty your aerosol cans following the steps outlined above, then you must manage the contents as dangerous waste.

You have two options for disposing of aerosol cans and their contents:

  1. Send the can with its contents to a permitted hazardous waste service provider.
  2. Remove the contents and manage as dangerous waste, and recycle the empty container.
    This option lowers the amount of dangerous waste your business has to dispose of.

To remove the contents and manage as dangerous waste:

  • Puncture the can with a commercial puncturing device.
  • Drain and collect the contents, and manage as dangerous waste.
  • Properly label the collection container used to hold the contents. Keep it closed when not in use.
  • If pouring into a funnel, remove the drained aerosol can promptly once empty (i.e. avoid leaving the can in the funnel). Close and latch the funnel lid prompty.
  • Recycle empty can.

What if my aerosol cans do not contain dangerous contents?

Empty or partially full aerosol cans with no dangerous contents (for example, aerosol food products) are not considered dangerous waste. However, they are still pressurized and may explode if crushed or heated.

To lower any possible risk to people:

  • Do not put partially full aerosol cans in the trash.
  • Empty the can through normal use, then recycle.
  • Ask your metal recycler if they require you to puncture and drain aerosol cans before recycling.