Disposing of a Portable Gas Can

Red plastic fuel canister on dirt road with car

The laws regarding the collection and disposal of empty household hazardous waste containers, such as old gas cans, vary according to your location and are not always consistent from state to state. Household hazardous waste is a major source of environmental pollution in the United States today, so it is vitally important to dispose of containers that once held hazardous materials–like gas cans–responsibly and correctly.

To dispose of a portable gas can, empty it, label it as “gasoline”, and have it taken care of by a hazardous waste management agency. Because gasoline is a hazardous waste, the container it is stored in needs to be disposed of properly. An empty gas can should never be thrown away with other trash.

It is also important to be aware of how old your gas cans are so that you can have an idea of when it is the appropriate time to dispose of and replace a gas can. Read below to find out how you can dispose of or recycle your old gas can!

How Long Do Plastic Gas Cans Last?

The gas in a plastic gas can will last about 3 to 5 months since it is in a sealed container. The container itself will last much longer, but it is recommended that you do not store gas containers for more than 1 year at most, this is because the chemicals leach from their surfaces over time and can contaminate the other nearby items.

A portable gas can that smells bad is also an indicator that you need to dispose of and replace it.

Getting Rid of Your Plastic Gas Can

Although it may not seem like a big deal to toss an empty gasoline container into the trash, keep in mind that such hazardous waste containers can cause injury to sanitation workers and the environment. Even just a small amount of gasoline can or a container that held this substance can pollute water systems if they are not disposed of properly.

Keep in mind that federal law allows for the disposal of household hazardous waste in the regular trash, but some communities have stricter and more specific processes in place.

Here is how you can safely dispose of your old gas can:

  1. If the can is not already empty, pour the remaining gasoline into your car, lawnmower, motorcycle, or another safety-approved gas can.
  2. Place the old gas can in a well-ventilated area away from open flame and electrical appliances. Remove the lid and leave the empty can to be exposed to the air until all of the gasoline has evaporated.
  3. Label the can so others can identify the type of fuel that was stored in it. You can use a permanent black marker to write “gasoline” on the side. Place the lid back on the gas can but do not seal it completely. Leave the lid loose so that any remaining gasoline vapors can still escape.
  4. Call your local solid waste or household hazardous waste management agency for instructions about where to dispose of your can.

Recycling an Old Portable Gas Can

Side Shot Of Red Blank Gasoline Can

It may be possible to recycle your old portable gas can, depending on your location. You might be able to recycle an old gas can at a local household hazardous waste drop-off site if the can is empty and there are no fumes present. In some places, however, gas cans cannot be accepted for recycling due to the risk of any potentially lingering fumes. Be sure to check with your local recycling center or hazardous waste drop-off site beforehand.

Recycle Your Container – Many stores where you would buy a new gasoline container have recycling programs for old containers. Check with local stores to see if they will accept your empty gas can and recycle it for you.

Call Your Local Recycling Company – In some places, you can recycle an empty plastic gas container without a problem, but in many places, they are considered hazardous materials and must be disposed of according to specific and strict guidelines that are set by local government. These laws may vary depending on where you live, so check with your city to find out for sure.

You may have to do a small amount of digging in the phone book or on the internet to track down who exactly handles hazardous waste disposal in your area, but you can contact local recycling centers to ask if they accept used gas cans. If they don’t, they will likely be able to refer you to someone who does.

Sell It to a Recycling Company – Many recycling companies out there will buy your used plastic gas cans for a small price in order to recycle them for the raw materials later on. This is an ideal scenario since recycling the can is better for the environment and also gets you a few extra dollars in your pocket for your can.

Use It as a Watering Can or Storage Container – If you no longer want to use your old portable gas can for storing gasoline, you can use it for a different purpose instead. After allowing all of the gasoline vapors to thoroughly evaporate, you can repurpose or “upcycle” the container. You could use it as a watering can for plants or as a storage container. By repurposing the container, you can squeeze some more use out of the can and keep it out of a landfill.

Important Warnings to Keep in Mind

Remember that dealing with gasoline and the containers in which it is stored can be dangerous if not done responsibly and properly. Here are a few things to always keep in mind when going through the process of disposing of an old gasoline container:

  • Never smoke or have any sort of flame around gasoline or gas cans, and be sure to keep it away from electrical appliances. Even a minimal amount of gasoline produces highly flammable vapors.
  • Never pour gasoline down a drain or into the soil, particularly when emptying a gas container. Gasoline is very hazardous and will pollute the soil and water, and pouring household hazardous waste down a drain or into the soil may be a violation of local and state law.
  • Never attempt to clean out your gas can by rinsing it out with water and then pouring the water down the drain. Even a small amount of gasoline can contaminate the soil and water and negatively affect the environment.
  • Do not throw an empty gas can away with your regular trash.

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