Compressed or liquefied gas cylinders offer a safe, convenient energy supply. Millions of households nationwide use refillable propane gas tanks with barbecue grills and other appliances. Many people also use non-refillable gas cylinders for camping, RV’s, and heating. Because of this, national parks end up with large amounts of cylinder waste—Yosemite National Park handled 23,000 cylinders in 2014.
Most of these cylinders can be reused or recycled if handled in a way that mitigates hazards. Leftover gas runs the risk of combustion, corrosion, toxicity, or reactivity; improper disposal of gas cylinders can place workers at risk of serious injury and cause damage to buildings and equipment.
Refillable 1-lb gas cylinders
PSI held dialogue meetings in Florida and Massachusetts in 2003 and in Wisconsin in 2009 to discuss voluntary gas cylinder recycling programs, including the idea for refillable 1-lb gas cylinders.
In 2015, manufacturers in California finally released a refillable 1-lb container through the California Product Stewardship Council (CPSC) Refuel Your Fun Campaign. Thanks to this campaign, Kamps Propane, Pick Up Propane, and other California retailers now accept 1-lb refillable cylinders for exchange. This program can serve as a model for voluntary reuse programs in other states.
Recycling empty non-reusable 1-lb gas cylinders
Non-refillable fuel canisters are made of steel or aluminum and can be recycled through participating curbside recycling programs. However, consumers must safely empty fuel canisters before placing them with other metal recyclables. Manufacturers should provide support and education to both waste managers and consumers to encourage the safe collection and recycling of their products. Some hazardous waste collection programs – like Orange Drop Ontario -- provide safe gas cylinder recycling and collection.
20-lb propane tank exchange services
Tank exchange companies collect used 20-lb propane tanks, refill them, and redistribute them to retailers (generally wire cages outside of stores and gas stations). The two largest national tank exchange operations are Blue Rhino and AmeriGas. California retailers go a step further by providing not only exchange but recycling and refilling services at their stores.
Manufacturer funding for programs, outreach, and education
Manufacturers can encourage safe and sustainable gas cylinder disposal by operating and financing reuse, refill, and recycling programs. Cylinder manufacturers Flame King, Little Kamper, and Manchester Tank now produce refillable 1-lb cylinders through the CPSC Refuel Your Fun Campaign.
Manufacturers can internalize the cost of post-consumer management into the product price in order to fund safe and convenient disposal.
PSI's Role in Delivering Solutions
Provides Technical Assistance
In 2003, PSI offered recommendations to SEMASS, a Massachusetts solid waste combustion facility, related to the safe management of 20-lb refillable propane tanks. As more cylinder collection programs emerge (Orange Drop Ontario) and refillable 1-lb propane cylinders become commonplace (CPSC Refuel Your Fun Campaign), promoting best practices for safe tank and cylinder management is more important than ever.
Brings Stakeholders Together
PSI brings various stakeholders together so that state and local governments, private industries, and environmental organizations can together create programs and develop solutions that address the need for convenient, safe gas cylinder recycling.
In 2003, PSI facilitated three multi-stakeholder dialogues in Sarasota County, Florida between representatives from propane industry associations, tank manufacturers and recyclers, retailers and dealers of propane tanks, environmental/consumer advocates, state and local government agencies, and waste management companies, to explore management options and issues for 20-pound refillable propane tanks and 1-pound pressurized gas cylinders. In 2009, PSI facilitated a gas cylinders recycling workshop in collaboration with Worthington Cylinders in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
PSI supports and advises on the implementation of voluntary programs, including collection surveys, evaluations, outreach materials, and program models. In 2003, following three stakeholder dialogues in Florida, PSI indentified issues related to the collection and management of non-refillable 1-lb gas cylinders and provided recommendations for improved product management.
Advocates for EPR Legislation
PSI monitors, informs and advocates for product stewardship legislation for gas cylinders. There are currently no extended producer responsibility laws for gas cylinders.
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Creates Toolkits and Online Resources
PSI provides tools for governments, NGOs, and other stakeholders that wish to start or promote programs related to the safe management of refillable propane tanks.
For more information, please contact Scott Cassel at (617) 236-4822.