Many companies use aerosol cans every day but hate the high costs of hazardous waste disposal. They may choose to recycle their used or empty aerosol cans. In many cases, they’re unsure of how to empty the cans. They may even puncture them with a screwdriver, draining out the remaining contents.
Please do not do that! Using a screwdriver as an aerosol can puncturing device is dangerous, for several reasons.
- It could cause a spark that could ignite the propellant or the can’s contents (if it’s flammable)
- It’s against OSHA regulations
- 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).
How to Get Contents Out of Aerosol Cans
Currently, RCRA does not consider depressurized and empty aerosol cans to be 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 remember, safety must come first.
The Hazards of Aerosol Cans
There are two materials present in an aerosol can. First is the product itself, such as paint, cleaning materials, etc. Second is the propellant (usually butane or propane) which supplies the pressure needed to spray the product. Often, both materials could be flammable and hazardous. OSHA CFR 1910.1200 defines flammable aerosols as Category 1 flammable liquids.
When an aerosol can heats up, the pressure inside the can rises. In extreme conditions, it may even burst or explode. If an ignition source is present, the consequences could be very severe.
And expensive. Along with the costs of any property damage, expect to pay substantial fines for failing to follow regulations.
Regulations for Aerosol Can Disposal
OSHA standard 1910.106(e)(6) covers sources of ignition. Companies are required to take adequate precautions for preventing ignition of flammable vapors. The standards list potential ignition sources such as frictional heat and static electricity.
A person who punctures an aerosol can with a screwdriver is basically disregarding any safety precautions. The steel head of the screwdriver generates frictional heat against the can’s steel or aluminum body. If it sparks, it can potentially ignite the propellant as it depressurizes through the hole. That’s why only non-sparking or spark-resistant tools should be used to puncture aerosol cans safely.
The lack of proper grounding presents another hazard. Flammable liquids may not be dispensed without electrically connecting the nozzle and receiving container. Static sparks result 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. Using a screwdriver to puncture an aerosol can makes it impossible to comply with all these requirements.
Finally, there is an occupational health hazard associated with using a screwdriver to puncture an aerosol can. There is no filtering source to prevent the release of the remaining product and propellant directly into the atmosphere. This may expose workers to hazardous or toxic materials.
Justrite Aerosolv® Recycling Systems
Justrite Aerosolv® Aerosol Can Recycling Systems are safe, suitable equipment for recycling aerosol cans. The unit fits onto a standard drum and uses a non-sparking pin to puncture aerosol cans safely. Any remaining product and the propellant drain into the sealed drum. VOCs are filtered through an active carbon filter attached to the bung opening. To prevent static discharge, the can is electrically bonded to the recycling unit and drum. All Aerosolv Recycling Systems are intrinsically safe when used according to its instructions.
Order Your Aerosolv Aerosol Can Recycling System from Justrite 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.