Every single business in the United States of America will have a fire extinguisher, and most buildings will have one or two located in the hallways of their business. But, over time your fire extinguishers will slowly become less useful and you will eventually have to replace them. But what do you do with your old fire extinguishers once you have new ones?
Old fire extinguishers can be taken to a fire department or local hazardous waste disposal location. The fire department or the hazardous waste disposal location will make sure that the extinguisher is safely and carefully disposed of or recycled. Full fire extinguishers should not be thrown away.
However, there are several steps that you should take before you go start disposing of your old fire extinguisher. I will explain these steps along with other important information that you will need to know when it comes to disposing of your old fire extinguisher. I will also explain both when it is time to get a new fire extinguisher and the different types of extinguishers that exist.
How Long do Extinguishers Last?
Before they reach any age limit, once you first use a fire extinguisher it needs to be replaced. Unfortunately, no matter how large the fire extinguisher may be, every single fire extinguisher is a single-use item. The main reason for this is that once you pull the pin, the pressure that is used to propel the water, foam, or carbon dioxide will be released and start to leak out, making the extinguisher useless.
If you have never used your extinguisher, the ideal situation, then you are going to have to replace it as it hits the end of its life span. Fire extinguishers typically will last from around 10 to 12 years however it is recommended that you try to replace them sooner than that as problems could have already occurred making them unusable. This is also why you should have your fire extinguishers checked often so they can check for things such as missing pins, cracks in the hose, or other potential problems in your extinguisher. (Source)
Besides it being used or it hitting the end of its lifespan, you will want to replace the fire extinguisher if it has any form of damage. Things like a cracked or clogged hose, wobbly or broken handle, missing or highly bent pin, damaged outer shell, missing inspection tag or a failed hydrostatic test all suggest that you should replace the fire extinguisher.
The last main reason to replace your fire extinguisher would be pressure loss. If the pin showing pressure leaves the green area despite not being used, then you will want to replace it as it is possible that the extinguisher might not function anymore.
Why Can’t Fire Extinguishers be Placed in the Trash?
Not every fire extinguisher is the same, and while some extinguishers can be placed in the trash or recycled if they are empty, other extinguishers contain dangerous chemicals that prevent them from being just tossed in the trash. There are 7 types of extinguishers that exist and are commonly used, and each uses different materials to stop the fire that I will talk about later. But it is due to the extinguishers that use these chemicals that cause the laws on fire extinguisher disposal come up. (Source)
Where do I Send Old Fire Extinguishers?
This is a very simple extinguisher and is mostly used for stopping fires in materials like wood, cloth, paper, and other very standard objects. If these extinguishers have expired or you need to dispose of them, then you can simply go outdoors and empty them. Once this is done, you can place the empty case into either the trash or the recycling.
Film-forming Foam Extinguisher
The extinguishers do exactly what they sound like, using foams to suppress the fires. these are most commonly used to fight both basic material fires and also use for fires inflammable liquids. Film-forming foam extinguishers are also easy extinguishers to dispose of since you can just empty the contents and place them in recycling or trash. The foam breaks down quickly and does not contain harmful chemicals. (Source)
Carbon Dioxide Extinguisher
This is an extinguisher that is typically used indoors as the carbon dioxide is dispersed in a gas/ snow cloud which will suppress the fire and leave little to no residue. Those using these should be cautious as it limits the amount of oxygen in the air, but because they just used carbon dioxide, it can be disposed of in the same way as the previous two types.
Halogenated Agent Extinguisher
There are two types of extinguishers under this, Halon and Halon Alternatives, but both of these contain dangerous chemicals. Part of the reason for this is because they are used to fight fires on electrical equipment, but it does mean these are difficult to dispose of. You can always drop them off at a fire department near you, or you could go to a local hazardous waste collection center and give it to them to carefully dispose of and recycle. (Source)
Dry Chemical Extinguisher
These extinguishers use a dry chemical mixture that exits as a powder-like substance that fights the fire. However, these use several chemicals that aren’t very safe for the environment and so you should dispose of these in the same way as the halogenated agent extinguishers.
Wet Chemical Extinguisher
This is the most common in kitchens since it is very effective against cooking fires. It acts as a coolant against more typical fires however when sprayed onto a grease fire or a similar fire it acts like a blanket and can extinguish it. when disposing of these it is best to give them to firefighters of your local hazardous waste center.
Dry Powder Extinguisher
These extinguishers are very rare as more commonly dry powder is applied through hand and shovel, however, if you do have one of these then you shouldn’t have to worry about it expiring since it is powered through hand plumping rather than pressure. When disposing of it, simply take it to the local fire department. (Source)
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