How to dispose of small propane canisters

July 9, 2013 

Campers frequent Eastern Madera County on their way to and from local lakes and the high country. And, camping is popular for many of us who live in the area since we are so close to numerous scenic camping facilities. We set up the tent, get some dinner going, and put out our chairs to enjoy nature. Propane stoves and propane lanterns are wonderful additions for our creature comforts while camping. When our camp trip is over, we are often left with empty gas canisters. We want to dispose of these canisters properly, so what do we do with them?

Small propane canisters (usually weighing 2 lbs or less), often used for camp stoves and lanterns, provide enough fuel for a limited time only. While there are regulations governing the disposal of large propane tanks, smaller canisters often end up in the trash can. However, disposing of them responsibly will keep them out of landfills, and ensure our own safety and that of waste management company personnel.

Spent propane canisters are considered hazardous waste while still under pressure, but once they are safely vented and relieved of pressure they can be recycled as scrap metal.


To determine how much propane is left in the canister, shake the canister and listen for a sloshing sound. The louder the slosh, the less fuel the canister holds. To make sure the canister is completely empty, attach the canister to the device (usually stove or lantern). Next, turn the gas on and light the device, allowing the gas to run out until the canister no longer has any fuel. Remove the canister and place it in your recycling bin, the one used for tin cans.

Write "empty" on the side of the small canister to remind yourself and to notify anyone handling the canister that it's empty.

Check to see if your local recycling station has a special disposal area for empty propane canisters.

A manager at REI stated that they often take half-empty canisters from Yosemite visitors who are flying out. They then give these canisters to staff or to customers for free, so that the contents are not wasted. REI also sells a tool to puncture the can and release any unused gas. Miller's Mountain Sports indicated that they sell an accessory for the Jet Boil canisters that empties them. The canisters can then be taken to the transfer station or to a recycling center, such as CJ Recycling — (559) 760-5333 — that accepts metal. All Right Recycling in North Fork — (559) 676-3787 — accepts barbecue propane tanks, but not the smaller canisters currently. As policies change from time to time at recycling centers, it's best to call first.

Happy camping and happy recycling!

References: Telephone interviews with retail personnel at REI and Miller's Mountain Sports, and with CJ Recycling and All Right Recycling.

"How Do I Determine How Much Propane Is Left in a Canister?" by Eric Cedric,

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