“Can I throw an aerosol can in the trash?” is a tricky question. The can itself is not the problem, it’s the contents of the can that may cause issues. Proper aerosol can disposal is required because many cans used in the workplace contain hazardous materials. Either the product itself or the propellant used to spray the product is harmful to the environment. This means we have to be careful how we treat used aerosol cans.

Companies can pay large fines for improper handling of hazardous waste. Spent aerosol cans are considered hazardous waste while still under pressure. It is against Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) regulations to dispose of in the trash. RCRA is legislation that defines proper management of hazardous and non-hazardous waste. Enacted in 1976, it is a federal U.S. law regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

RCRA covers how aerosol can disposal should properly be handled. In a worst-case scenario, the aerosol can must be treated as hazardous waste. But, the rule also describes how companies can guarantee that the aerosol can is empty and then treat it as normal waste or recycle it. This occurs when the can meets conditions specified in guideline 40 CFR 261.1(c)(6).


How RCRA Affects Aerosol Can Disposal

There are two ways to exclude aerosol cans from the hazardous solid waste category.

1. If the product in the can is a hazardous substance, then the can must be completely emptied. To be RCRA-empty, cans must contain no more than 1 inch or 3 percent by weight of residue. RCRA classifies empty cans as non-hazardous.

2. The propellant used to spray the contents of the can may also be hazardous. Thus, the propellant must be completely used up, which balances the can to atmospheric pressure.

Most aerosol cans ready for disposal will fail to meet one of these criteria. They will be classed as hazardous waste without some intervention.


Aerosolv Recycling Systems

Aerosolv offers multiple RCRA-compliant aerosol can recycling systems. All our systems are easy-to-use. Mount the puncturing device onto any standard 30- or 55-gallon drum. Insert a can upside down and clamp into position. Activating the device penetrates the can with an angled pin. Remaining liquid contents pour out into the drum, along with the propellant.

A two-piece coalescing and activated carbon filter absorbs any vapors and odors from the drum. Once full, dispose of it as hazardous liquid waste according to appropriate regulations.

Grounding cables ensure the drum and puncturing device are electrically connected. This eliminates static buildup, which could cause a spark and ignition of the waste.


Aerosol Can Recycling and Saving Waste

After being processed by an Aerosolv recycling system, the aerosol can disposal can be treated as non-hazardous waste. But, an even greater benefit is that these cans are now recyclable because they are RCRA-empty.

American industry consumes approximately three billion aerosol cans each year. This represents enough steel to produce 500,000 cars. Aerosol can recycling minimizes waste to landfill sites and reduces the energy needed to make new products.


Aerosol Can Recycling Equipment - Order Today

Aerosolv supplies aerosol can recycling equipment. We turn empty aerosol cans into recyclable steel. Check out the Original Aerosolv Recycling System 5000 – trusted for more than 25 years!

Not sure what system will meet your needs? Visit our Comparison Guide for an overview of each systems’ features and benefits.



EPA. Criteria for the Definition of Solid Waste and Solid and Hazardous Waste Exclusions
EPA. Learn the Basics of Hazardous Waste
EPA. Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Overview
Lion Technology Inc. How to Manage Aerosol Cans Under RCRA Hazardous Waste Rules