How To Safely Dispose Of Compressed Gas Cylinders

If your business uses compressed gas cylinders, then you’ve been faced with the challenge of proper disposal.  Cylinders that have not been completely emptied can be dangerous.

What do cylinders look like and how are they dangerous?

The cylinders themselves are usually made from aluminum or steel.  Some cylinders may also be made of a composite material.  Compressed gas cylinders come in many shapes, sizes and uses.  Many industries require the use of compressed gas, from welding to scuba diving, home health care and food service.

If the cylinder is punctured, the release of the pressurized gas can cause it to spray shrapnel, causing property damage, bodily injury, or possibly death.  Any cylinder that has gas remaining is hazardous in two ways.  First, the cylinder itself can become an explosive under the right conditions.  Second, the gas itself is potentially flammable, poisonous, or both.

How can I tell if an empty cylinder is ready for disposal?

The compressed gas cylinders must be completely empty for proper disposal.  The only way to ensure this is by verifying the cylinder is incapable of holding gas.  There are a few ways to accomplish this, including the following:

  • Drilling a hole into the side of the cylinder
  • Removing the head valve from the cylinder
  • Cutting a portion out of the cylinder and removing it, exposing the inner wall

For a liquefied gas cylinder, there is one way to determine if it is empty.  The pressure on the cylinder remains constant as long as there is any liquid left inside.  Each of these cylinders will have a weight stamped on it, on the neck or valve stem.  Weigh the cylinder to determine if it is empty.

If the gas is not liquefied, you can use the pressure gauge to determine the amount of gas remaining in the cylinder.  Even if the gauge reads 0, however, there is still some gas left over, so it is not safe to puncture the cylinder to ready it for disposal.

How do I store empty compressed gas cylinders before disposal?

There are some easy steps you can do to care for your “empty” cylinders.  Many of these are the same things you would do for full cylinder storage:

  • Close the cylinder valve
  • Label the cylinder as empty with a clearly marked sign
  • If any part of the cylinder is known or suspected to be defective, mark it clearly
  • Keep the cylinder away from sources of extreme heat or cold, or extremes of humidity
  • Store the empty cylinders away from full cylinders.  An “empty” cylinder is much more likely to leak poisonous or flammable gas into its environment.

It is important to train your employees on the proper handling and disposal of used cylinders.  This will help to minimize accidents and ensure employee safety.

Who can do the actual disposal?

Disposal can be a dangerous business, but not if done with the proper training and safety.  If you have a need to dispose of compressed gas cylinders, whether they are full, partially full or completely empty, it is beneficial to call a professional management service to do this for you.  They have the trained chemists and technicians who can determine the best way to dispose of each kind of gas.

If you have questions, make sure you specify the contents of each cylinder, and whether or not you suspect the cylinder is compromised in any way due to temperature, corrosion or physical damage.  Do not attempt to move damaged cylinders in any way.  The management service will have the equipment and the know-how to handle any challenge.

Contact us for a free consultation to reduce your risk with a cost-effective management and disposal program for compressed gas cylinders.