Products that come in aerosol spray cans are convenient, but most of us will think twice before throwing them in the trash. Why is that? Both the pressure and mixture inside aerosol cans (both the products and the propellants) can be hazardous, and special precautions need to be taken to render them safe for at-home disposal or transport to a residential hazardous waste collection center. Learn more about the hazards of aerosol spray cans and what you can do about them.
Under Pressure: Hazards of Pressurized Aerosol Cans
Unless you’re dealing with a completely empty can, a pressurized aerosol can prove to be a hazard all in itself under the right circumstances. Make sure to never place such cans in or near places where they could be heated or crushed, such as fires or trash compactors. For the same reason, pressurized containers shouldn’t be thrown in the trash due to damage they can cause to a garbage truck’s compactor.
Types of Aerosol Propellant
Another hazard is the aerosol propellant itself, as many can be hazardous to the environment or flammable. Here are the most common:
- CFCs: If you have products before 1989, they may contain chlorofluorocarbons, known for their damaging impact on the ozone layer. Do not discharge and check local laws on CFCs.
- Hydrocarbons: Many modern propellants are mixes of volatiles such as propane, butane, and isobutane, making them all flammable and hazardous to breathe.
- Food–Safe Propellants: For foodstuffs like whipped cream or cooking spray, nitrous oxide or carbon dioxide is used, with medical inhalers using products such as HFAs.
Safe Handling and Disposal of Aerosol Spray Cans
For at-home disposal, cans should be emptied first. Cans should be discharged outside into a cardboard box or trash bag, especially with hazardous products like oven cleaner or pesticides. See if empty aerosol containers are acceptable in your local recycling program. If not, place it in the trash. Read the warning labels on products for more information on contents and disposal options.
If your warning labels suggest not to discharge the container or you don’t want to deal with at-home disposal, think about coming to an NEDT Collection Center! We handle household hazardous waste, so you don’t have to, including quick and easy curbside service and simple pricing. Contact us today to learn more, including our pick up options!