aerosol-can-recycling-puncture-with-screwdriver

Customer Question:

My company uses aerosol cans every day. Due to the high costs of hazardous waste disposal, we want to recycle our used or empty aerosol cans. But, we’re unsure of how to empty the cans. Someone suggested puncturing them with a screwdriver and draining out the remaining contents. Is this method acceptable?

Answer:

No! Using a screwdriver as an aerosol can puncturing device is dangerous – it could cause a spark that could ignite the propellant or the can’s contents (if it’s flammable). It’s also against OSHA regulations. And it may harm the environment.

Most aerosol cans made of steel or aluminum can be recycled – but only if empty. Otherwise, the EPA may classify it as hazardous waste depending on the original contents. The EPA regulates waste using the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).

According to RCRA, depressurized and empty aerosol cans are not hazardous waste. Disposing of hazardous waste is expensive and must be strictly controlled. It makes sense to puncture aerosol cans for sustainability and cost reasons. But, safety still comes first.

Aerosol Can Recycling: Understanding the Hazards of Aerosol Cans

There are two materials present in an aerosol can. One is the product itself, such as paint, cleaning materials, etc. The other is the propellant (usually butane or propane) which supplies the pressure needed to spray the product. Either or both of these materials could be flammable and hazardous. OSHA CFR 1910.1200 defines flammable aerosols as Category 1 flammable liquids.

If an aerosol can heats up, the pressure inside the can also rises. In extreme conditions, it may even burst or explode. If this happens in the presence of an ignition source, the consequences could be very severe.

And expensive. Expect to cover more than just the costs of any property damage. Regulators impose substantial financial penalties for failing to follow regulations.

Aerosol Can Recycling: Understanding the Regulations for Aerosol Can Disposal

OSHA standard 1910.106(e)(6) covers sources of ignition. It requires companies to take adequate precautions for preventing ignition of flammable vapors. The potential ignition sources listed include frictional heat and static electricity.

Puncturing an aerosol can with a screwdriver completely disregards any precautions. The screwdriver generates frictional heat against the can’s steel or aluminum body, which could result in a spark. This spark will ignite the propellant as it depressurizes through the hole. That’s why only non-sparking or spark-resistant tools should be used to puncture an aerosol can.

According to the standard, the lack of proper grounding presents another hazard. Flammable liquids may not be dispensed without electrically connecting the nozzle and receiving container. Static sparks come from a difference in electrical charge between one container and another. OSHA 1926.449 specifies the use of intrinsically safe equipment. This applies wherever there is a possibility of flammable vapors mixing with air. It is impossible to comply with all these requirements while using a screwdriver to puncture an aerosol can.

There is also an occupational health hazard associated with using a screwdriver to puncture an aerosol can. The puncture releases remaining product and propellant directly into the atmosphere. This may expose workers to hazardous or toxic materials.

Puncture Aerosol Cans Safely with Aerosolv® Recycling Systems

An Aerosolv® Aerosol Can Recycling System is a safe, suitable method for recycling aerosol cans. The unit fits onto a standard drum and uses a non-sparking pin to puncture aerosol cans safely. It drains any remaining product along with the propellant into the sealed drum. An active carbon filter attached to the bung opening filters VOCs. Electrical bonding of the aerosol can to the recycling unit and drum prevents static discharge. All Aerosolv Recycling Systems are intrinsically safe when used according to its instructions.

Aerosol Can Recycling and Disposal: Relevant Legislation

  • CFR 29 1910.106 - Flammable Liquids
  • CFR 29 1926.449 - Construction (Electrical subpart - definitions)
  • CFR 29 1910.1200 – Hazard Communication Standard

Order Your Aerosolv Aerosol Can Recycling System Today

Replace unsafe aerosol can puncturing practices with an Aerosolv aerosol can recycling system. It keeps you compliant with the law and protects your workers. Multiple Aerosolv systems are available - find the best one for your needs here.