When a fire extinguisher has been fully discharged, you may think the remaining canister is nothing but a hunk of metal. However, chemical residues from the extinguishing foam still linger in the canister, making it count as hazardous waste. When you need to dispose of an old extinguisher, whether it's almost empty or still contains some foam, you have to be careful. This is not something that you can merely toss away, thinking that a little bit of chemical residue won't hurt.
Do Not Place Them in Recycling Bins
Please don't place empty fire extinguishers in your regular recycling bin. The recycling department that handles the materials from those bins is not equipped to properly dispose of any residue inside. Plus, given that the bins are often left out in all kinds of weather, including heatwaves, the canisters can experience problems such as discharging any remnants of the extinguishing materials and contaminating other materials in the recycling bin. That would turn all of those materials into hazardous items needing special disposal, too.
Call Your State's Environmental Conservation Department
States often have collection events where you can bring items like old extinguishers. Call your state's environmental conservation department to find out about the next event near you. If there are none for the foreseeable future, the department can let you know where hazardous waste like these old extinguishers can be brought in. Note that in some states, the place where you'd bring the extinguishers is different from the usual household hazardous waste service that would accept things like paint and batteries.
Your Local Fire Department May Accept Old Extinguishers
Another option may be your local fire department station. They do accept some types of extinguishers for disposal, particularly very old halon extinguishers. If yours are of a different type, you can always call and ask if they'll take it if the environmental department's information isn't that helpful due to location or timing.
Never discharge old extinguishers, even if they're full but too old to use. Let the department disposing of them handle them.
Disposing of old fire extinguishers properly is essential for helping preserve the environment and keeping people safe. You've got a number of options you can use. The most important thing is that you keep those canisters out of regular trash and recycling streams and bring them to a place that is equipped to deal with the chemicals inside.
For more information about fire extinguishers, reach out to a local service.