How to Dispose of a Helium Tank

Helium was discovered in the 19th century by a French astronomer and has since been used in everything from party balloons to space crafts. Helium tanks can’t just be thrown away in the garbage.

Do not throw away helium tanks in the garbage as part of household trash. Instead, try to recycle, repurpose, or donate it. When throwing a helium tank away, follow the proper disposal process to release any pressure. Pressurized helium tanks can be dangerous if not properly disposed of.

If you don’t follow the proper disposal process, you are putting others at risk of a dangerous explosion for the sake of your convenience. Continue reading to figure out what you can do to properly get rid of your helium tank.

Disposing of a Helium Tank

Because helium tanks contained compressed gas, they can explode if not properly disposed of as outlined in the steps below. When helium tanks are placed in garbage cans, they will be sent to trash compactors and burst which could cause harm to the workers at the landfill.

Here are the proper steps to safely and legally dispose of a helium tank that is under 5 gallons.

  1. You will need some pliers, a screwdriver or punch, a permanent marker, and some safety glasses and gloves.
  2. First, fully open the valve on the tank.
  3. Then, push down on the nozzle until the tank is empty. The tank is empty when the hissing stops. If you don’t hear hissing, push down on the nozzle harder. You should also feel the gas escaping on your finger.
  4. Put on the safety glasses.
  5. Unscrew the valve nut with the pliers and remove the nozzle.
  6. Place the tip of a flathead screwdriver on the rupture disc located on the shoulder of the tank. With the hammer, lightly tap on the handle of the screwdriver to pierce the rupture disc.
  7. Next, completely remove the disc.
  8. Using a permanent marker, circle the pierced rupture disc and write empty on the tank.
  9. Then, place the tank next to your garbage cart on pickup day or in your designated trash bin. (This may vary depending on your location. Use this link for area-specific information about the proper disposal of helium tanks. You can also drop it off at a designated landfill after you have followed this process. Some counties hold Household Hazardous Waste collection round-up events where cities set up a collection drop-off location).

Recycling a Helium Tank

If your helium tank is recyclable, it will have markings on it indicating that it can be reused. If you plan to use helium in the future, you can take it to the supplier where you originally purchased it and they will probably be able to refill it for you for about half the cost.

Even if you don’t need more helium, you can still take the tank to the original supplier and they may give you cash back for returning the tank.

If this is not possible, or if your tank is larger than 5 gallons, you can take the tank to your local recycling center. A Google search for “recycling center near me” should bring up the information you need. It is usually free to drop off.

The helium tank is made out of heavy steel, so a recycling center will be able to make use of this as scrap metal.

Donating Helium

Helium is used for much more than filling balloons for parties. Helium is important for science experiments, space exploration, and in hospitals. One of the tops uses for helium gas is MRI scanners that use helium gas to cool the machines. Scientists use the case to study quantum effects by cooling down matter.

There is plenty of helium throughout the universe, but because it is the second lightest element in the universe, it can’t be kept on Earth by the atmosphere. This has resulted in a helium shortage throughout the world. Helium can’t be artificially created so once we run out of natural sources, it is gone!

For these reasons, it is a great idea to be able to donate helium that you aren’t going to use. You might be able to donate it to a local business or a lab. You may have to make a few phone calls, but you will get the chance to make someone’s day and do something good for the environment.

Common Questions

Is improper disposal of a helium tank illegal?

While there are no laws that state consequences for improperly disposing of a helium tank, doing so is highly irresponsible. This makes sense because it would be difficult to track down the person who did this after the tank has already been disposed of.

There are various reports of sanitation and landfill workers who have been operating trash compactors and upon compression, the tank burst. This can cause sharp metal pieces to spray and seriously injure the worker.

If you chuck the tank in the trash can, you are endangering others.

Are helium tanks flammable?

Helium is a non-combustible gas, so you don’t need to worry about it catching fire. Many manufacturers suggest that you keep helium in a cool place to be cautious.

Is it necessary to purchase a helium tank to fill balloons?

Typically only party planners need to purchase helium tanks because they will be using them frequently. If you are having a party at home, you could easily purchase pre-filled balloons from a party store, or you can rent a helium tank to use for the day. You can rent helium tanks for as little as $19.95 per day while purchasing your own tank can cost upwards of $60.

This way, you won’t have to worry about the proper disposal of the tank. You can return it at the end of the day.

Can I repurpose an old helium tank?

Yes! There are so many ideas online that repurpose old helium tanks into yard decorations, jack-o-lanterns, tables, firepits, flower pots, outdoor ovens, and more. This is a great way to recycle the tank instead of sending it to the dump.

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