My camping stove and heater work with butane canisters and I can accumulate quite a few of them after only a few camping trips.
Getting rid of them can be a pain and you don't want to throw something potentially explosive in your curbside collection – plus it can be difficult to know whether or not you're even allowed to.
So what’s the best way to dispose of butane canisters?
Dispose of butane canisters by first using up or discarding all remaining fuel and then piercing holes in them with a safe and suitable tool (like a Crunchit). Then recycle your butane cans at your local hazardous/chemical waste recycling facility or contact your local municipality and ask if completely empty and punctured butane cans can be recycled in the curbside collection..
Because the cans are made from stainless steel or aluminum this is a highly recyclable material and some local areas may allow you to recycle them in your curbside collection.
Because they are completely emptied and punctured so that no gas or pressure is remaining in the cans this means they are no longer flammable or explosive and should be safe to recycle.
But ultimately it is up to your local curbside collection if they are allowed to be disposed of this way or not.
Not disposing of butane canisters properly can result in them ending up in a landfill or exploding if there’s still some butane left and injuring people or animals.
Luckily, recycling them only involves a few easy steps.
IMPORTANT: Empty The Canister Before Recycling It or Piercing a Hole in It
No matter how you plan of disposing of your butane canister it's really important that you empty the canister first to remove any remaining fuel.
Even if you've used up all the butane fuel and your stove or heater no longer burns, there may still be some fuel left in the can. Even if you are storing your empty butane cans long term before taking them to your local hazardous waste disposal center it's a good idea to discharge them first as this makes them safer to store.
Before you can recycle your butane canister, you should first burn off any remaining fuel.
Many people use their butane cans until they no longer light their stoves or heaters but if this isn’t the case for you, you should hook it up to your stove or heater and turn it on and burn it in a well ventilated area.
The stove or heater will eventually peter out, telling you that the canister only has trace amounts of butane left (butane doesn’t expire and you can use the cans for up to 10 years, as long as they aren’t damaged).
Pierce a Hole in the Can To Make It Safe To Recycle
Although you’ve burned off most of the butane in the canister, there will still be trace amounts left that you need to get rid of and there will still be pressure inside the can.
You need to remove the last remaining butane by piercing a hole in the canister’s wall.
You could use a screwdriver but I wouldn’t really recommend this method because you risk causing an explosion if the metal creates sparks when you make the hole. We want to avoid danger wherever possible and I firmly believe it's better to be safe than sorry.
Also, you should only handle the canister after it has completely cooled down after being used or you may burn yourself.
Thankfully, there are safe ways to pierce holes in butane cans. However, you should use the correct tools and only pierce the canister in a well-ventilated area (butane is highly flammable and can easily ignite if there is even a small spark or static electricity).
The Crunchit tool from Amazon is a popular, safe and effective way to make your butane canister ready for recycling (and it’s also not that expensive). It will help to discharge any remaining gas and then safely and easily create a hole (or multiple holes) in your butane can making it safe to recycle.
It comes with a convenient slot so you can attach it to your keyring.
Punctures Jetpower and many other butane fuel canisters, making them recycling-bin-ready. Features an orifice wrench which safely vents fuel canisters prior to puncturing, helping remove remaining gas.
You screw it on to the top of the butane canister and wait while it releases the butane gas. Then, you push the Crunchit downward until it’s against the canister wall and press it so it creates a hole in the wall.
Here’s a video demonstrating how to use this tool:
Can You Recycle or Throw Out Butane Canisters In Your Curbside Collection?
Taking your empty butane canisters to a hazardous waste facility can seem inconvenient and you might wonder if your city offers curbside collection or if it’s okay to put them in your normal trash.
Butane canister MAY be able to be recycled in your local curbside collection IF you have discharged the canister and punctured hole it in to ensure no butane remains.
To be safe it's a good idea to contact your local municipality and ask them if emptied and punctured butane can can be recycled or thrown out.
If there is fuel remaining then butane canisters must be recycled as hazardous waste and most cities don’t offer curbside collection for this kind of recycling.
If you place empty butane canisters in your normal recycling or trash, they may end up in a landfill, which is terrible for the environment. The canisters may also explode or ignite and injure trash collectors or anyone near the canister.
In some cities, you may even get into trouble for disposing of butane canisters irresponsibly or carelessly so it’s worth making the effort of taking them to a hazardous waste site if you can't empty or puncture them.
You Can Crush Butane Cans After Puncturing Them
If you're in an RV or campervan and are unable to dispose of the cans in the local curbside collection then space can become an issue if you're collecting a lot of these cans.
A great way to save space is to puncture the butane cans and then crush them down in order to save on space. The cans are made usually made of aluminum and fairly easy to crush.
Just make sure you're not trying to crush a can that hasn't been punctured and completely empties as this could leave to an explosive release of pressure which could be dangerous.
Return The Empty Canister To Your Supplier If Possible
If your butane canister supplier offers free recycling, it might be convenient returning your canister to them and allowing them to recycle it responsibly for you, especially if you live in a small town with limited hazardous recycling facilities.
MSR, for example, now has a gas canister recycling program at their Seattle store but you’ll still need to empty your canister beforehand. It might be worth calling your supplier or checking their website for such a service.
Recycle The Empty Canister With Hazardous Waste
Most cities and towns have dedicated hazardous waste facilities where you can drop off your empty butane canisters. You can find a hazardous waste facility by visiting your city or town’s official website and checking the refuse and recycling section.
Many cities also host hazardous waste drop-off events, which can be easier than trying to find a hazardous waste site. However, these events usually only happen a couple of times a year so you’ll need to accumulate gas canisters.
When collecting empty butane canisters, store them as you normally would just in case there are still trace amounts of butane in them.