How to dispose of small propane tanks?

In this article, we cover the various ways one can use in order to safely dispose of a small propane tank. 

How to dispose of small propane tanks?

You can dispose of your small propane tanks in  the following ways:

  • Exchange them at various retailers
  • Take empty tanks to your nearest waste transfer station
  • Completely empty the tank & throw in trash

How To Check Propane Tanks

Before you do anything, it is vital to check whether the propane tank is in a proper condition. You can do so by:

  • Examine the cylinder. It should be free of corrosion, dents, and anything else that might compromise the cylinder’s integrity.
  • Examine the seals. The tank should not be utilised if the seals are broken or missing. Overtightening when connecting the tank to an appliance is the most typical cause of broken seals. Don’t use tools to secure your gas tanks to your camping gear. DO use hand-tightened connections between the cylinder and the gear it’s powering.
  • Examine the valves. The valves of a decent cylinder should be free of dirt and corrosion.
  • Look for any leaks. Leaking camping propane tanks should be thrown right away. There are three easy methods to tell whether your tank is leaking.
  • Soapy water produces bubbles. Connect the tank to a piece of camping gear and then drop soapy water at the connection location to check for leaks. If bubbles appear, the tank is leaking.
  • A hissing sound is heard. It should not create any noise when the gas canister is linked to a propane-powered accessory. The tank is leaking if you hear a hissing sound.
  • It smells like a rotten egg. It’s not necessary to have a good sense of smell to detect the odour of rotting eggs. The tank is leaking if you sense a rotten egg odour.

What are propane tanks made of?

Let’s look at the materials that propane tanks are constructed of to have a better idea of how to recycle them properly. This is significant since each material has unique qualities and is recycled in a unique way. 

All LPG (liquid petroleum gas) cylinders in the United States are manufactured to one of two standards: ASTM or DOT. The most popular propane cylinders we utilise are DOT (US Department of Transportation) approved. 

The required standard is either embossed or printed on the metal surface. For example, the Coleman 16.4oz cylinder is made according to DOT 39. 

All of these DOT Propane cylinders are composed of stainless steel alloy or aluminium that has been seam welded.

Both of these materials can be melted and reused and should therefore never go to a landfill or remain buried in your storage room.

Apart from the tank’s steel structure, the gas leftovers within make it hazardous waste, according to the EPA. As a result, recycling is a highly specialised procedure that should only be handled by hazardous waste professionals.

Why is recycling Propane tanks difficult?

You can’t just put your empty Propane canisters in the garbage as you can your regular trash (you can but we will discuss it below). The issue is that these tanks pose a risk of explosion.

Before transferring garbage to a waste management facility, recycling vehicles frequently compress collected rubbish with hydraulic compressors to make place for additional trash. 

If there is any remaining gas in a propane tank, it might explode, inflicting harm to materials and even employees handling the rubbish.

Most waste management firms are leery of these tanks and will refuse to collect them because of this. Because they can’t guarantee that each tank is totally empty, it’s easier for them to avoid collecting them altogether.

Coleman attempted to address this problem by creating the Green Key® tool, but it has yet to gain widespread acceptance.

How to dispose of small propane tanks?

You can dispose of your small propane tanks in  the following ways:

  • Exchange them at various retailers
  • Take empty tanks to your nearest waste transfer station
  • Completely empty the tank & throw in trash

We shall discuss these methods in more detail below.

Exchange them at various retailers

On camping stoves, a 16.4 ounce propane tank lasts 2 hours before becoming recyclable garbage. The larger 20lb container may be used for a longer amount of time, but it can also be refilled and replaced. 

A handful of stores will swap your refillable empty Propane gas cylinder for a full one. The only thing you have to pay for is the petrol inside. 

To qualify for this, you must ensure that the cylinder you are swapping is in good working order and free of damage.

The majority of these gas stations accept all brands of gasoline. There is no need to use a cylinder from the same manufacturer. This simplifies things considerably.

For example, you may trade a Coleman cylinder for a loaded RapidXchange cylinder at RapidXchange.

Take a look into some of the options mentioned below:

  • RapidXchange: You may exchange old propane tanks for new ones at a RapidXchange station. They serve the majority of states, and you may use their website to locate a RapidXchange station near you. Visit the RapidXchange website to learn more about their programme and how it works.
  • Lakes Gas: If you live in the upper Midwest (Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, or South Dakota), you may receive a new propane cylinder by exchanging your old one at any Lakes gas station. By entering your zip code, you can find the location closest to you.
  • AmeriGas: AmeriGas also offers a propane tank swap service. To broaden their nationwide reach, they’ve worked with third-party merchants (gas stations, hardware stores, and convenience stores, among others).

    You may pick up a new cylinder by bringing your empty tank to any of these locations. Please keep in mind that not all stations will swap empty tanks (majority of them do but not all).

    To find locations that take old tanks near you, go to this page and input your zip code, then use the “Propane Tank Exchange” filter on the right side.
  • Blue Rhino: You may drop off your empty propane tank and pick up a new one at the Blue Rhino station. You may swap any other brand for Blue Rhino without issue, just like other merchants.

    The only stipulation is that your tank must be in good working order. You may text Discover to 75653 to find your nearest Blue Rhino station, or use this link to search by zip code.
  • Walmart: You may also swap your empty tank at the majority of Walmart locations. They readily take Blue Rhino, AmeriGas, Flame King, Backyard Grill, and other brands, and will fill your tank at a cheaper price.
  • Home Depot:, like Walmart, Home Depot accepts all brands of empty propane tanks and cylinders.

Take empty tanks to your nearest waste transfer station

If you are unable to replace your empty tank at any store for any reason, do not require a freshly filled tank, or your tank is broken beyond repair, your next best choice is to dispose of it at your local community trash transfer station.

For a modest price, most counties have their own waste management facilities where you may dispose of any hazardous material, even propane tanks. 

The cost varies by area and pays toward the upkeep of landfills and recycling facilities.

Hazardous waste professionals handle the old tanks appropriately, and the material is repurposed to build something else.

You can ensure that your old recyclable propane tanks do not wind up in a landfill by bringing them to your local trash management facility to be recycled and utilised to build something new (perhaps a new propane tank).

Completely empty the tank & throw in trash

If your local rules do not prohibit the disposal of spent gasoline tanks, you can entirely empty the tank and dispose of it with your household rubbish. 

However, empty tanks may be an issue for your trash collection provider. The reason for this is that they don’t know if it’s empty or not, and they can’t be sure.

Coleman created their Green Key Tool in 2008 to tackle this problem and provide garbage collection firm employees some confidence. 

It’s just a little plastic key that fits into the nozzle of one-time-use propane canisters and ensures that the tank is entirely drained.

The idea was that if a garbage collector sees the Green Key, he may securely take up the canister without danger of it exploding during compaction. It hasn’t been generally known or acknowledged thus far.

Before you get rid of your old propane tank, be sure it’s legal in your area and that it’s entirely empty. Follow the instructions below to get rid of any residual gases inside:

  • Connect your propane cylinder to any appliance in a well-lit area. A single-burner camping stove is an excellent choice.
  • Turn on the burner, light the flame, and wait for the pressures to drop and the flame to go out.
  • Allow a few minutes for any remaining gas to escape.
  • Disconnect your propane tank and enter your Green Key tool (if you don’t have one, you can get one here).
  • To dispose of the cylinder, keep the key inserted permanently.

The bright green key on top of the nozzle serves as a visual cue to trash collection agencies that the container is fully devoid of all traces of propane and is safe to crush and recycle.


In this article, we have covered the various ways you can recycle your propane tank. Furthermore, we also covered the alternatives such as safe disposal when recycling is not a viable option.


Can you Refill & Reuse propane tanks?

Refilling DOT 39 cylinders is not recommended. It’s risky to refill them since it might endanger people’s lives and property. 

We use DOT-39 cylinders for all of our little 16.4oz propane tanks when we go camping. 

The certification number may be found on the back of these cylinders. They are only meant to be used once and should not be replenished.

Refilling and transporting all DOT 39 cylinders is a federal offence punishable by a fine of up to $500,000 and five years in jail, according to 49 CFR 178.65.

However, for bigger cylinders with no limits on refilling, you can refill them yourself or at any authorised refilling station and use them for an extended period of time.

After a specified amount of time has passed, each cylinder must be recertified for service. On the metal service, the last certification date and the following time period are stamped. If you’re unsure, ask your local gas station for assistance.

Refilling a single cylinder several times saves money since you just pay for the gas, not the steel cylinder.

Can you sell your used propane tank on Craigslist?

YEs, you can. Many folks are on the lookout for old propane tanks to buy. If your tank is in good enough shape to be refilled and reused, you may sell it on Craiglist for a reasonable amount. It can be put to better use by the person who purchases it.


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