Aerosol Brake Cleaner used in the various professional industries are packaged in aerosol spray cans. These Aerosol cans are thin-walled steel containers pressurized with one of several types of hydrocarbon propellants, such as butane. When the aerosol can is empty, the propellant and product are gone, the cans that remain are not considered hazardous wastes by themselves. However, partially empty aerosol spray cans may be regulated as hazardous wastes because they contain ignitable solvents.
Recycling Under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), aerosol cans may be recycled if they have been emptied through normal use or punctured and drained to remove significant liquids. Some states such as California have more stringent regulations than RCRA. Be sure to investigate your own state regulations before recycling aerosol cans. The shops are responsible for properly managing any captured wastes recovered from puncturing and draining.
Although spray cans may be discarded in the trash, they are recyclable due to the fact that the majority of the can is steel; in fact, the typical spray can contains at least 25% recycled steel. A number of recyclers that collect drained oil filters for recycling will also accept empty spray cans along with the filters. The oil filters and spray cans are shredded and melted down to make new steel.
Managing Empty Aerosol Containers
Empty means the can contains no product and no pressure. Empty containers are exempt from hazardous waste rules. They have no special storage, labeling or disposal requirements. Recycle them, if possible, or send them to an incinerator that will recover the metal. If you have a small number of empty aerosol containers, they may be able to be mixed with your solid waste. Check with your solid waste handler first.
Managing Non-Empty Aerosol Containers
First, try to return or exchange malfunctioning aerosol spray cans. Malfunctioning aerosol spray cans returned to the supplier or manufacturer are considered "product” not "waste." Hazardous waste rules do not apply. You must follow applicable Department of Transportation (DOT) requirements for transport. Non-empty aerosols that cannot be returned or exchanged must usually be managed as a hazardous waste. Regardless of the contents, most aerosols are hazardous because they are ignitable due to the type of propellants used.
Storage and Labeling of Waste Aerosols
Waste aerosol spray cans whose contents (including propellants) are non-hazardous have no hazardous waste storage requirements. Follow fire protection requirements for product storage. Store hazardous waste aerosols in a closed container marked with:
The words "Hazardous Waste"
, A clear description of the waste, and The accumulation start-date (the date you first placed waste in the container).
If you have only a few aerosol cans, you may mark them individually as outlined above, and place them in a fire-safe storage cabinet. You may designate a special cabinet for waste, or reserve and mark a special section of your product cabinet for waste. If storing incompatible materials, store them in separate containers (such as plastic dishpans) within the waste storage area. Perform and document weekly inspections of the waste.
Disposal / Recycling Options
Non-empty aerosol cans, even though they have been determined to be non-hazardous, have few disposal options. They generally cannot be sent to a landfill or a solid waste incinerator. They will probably need to be managed by a company specializing in hazardous and problem waste disposal.
Aerosol cans containing hazardous product or propellant should be shipped to a hazardous waste facility for proper disposal. Conditionally Exempt Small Quantity Generators (CESQGs) have the additional option of taking waste aerosol cans to a CESQG collection site.
Companies that regularly have significant numbers of similar waste aerosols may be interested in using an aerosol-puncturing device. (Use of a puncturing device does not require a waste-treatment permit at this time.)