How to Dispose of Aerosol Cans

Two Methods:Disposing of Empty CansDisposing of Full or Partial Full Cans

The right way to dispose of an aerosol can will depend on whether it is empty or not. Empty cans are very easy to dispose of through recycling programs and trash collection. Full or partially full aerosol cans cannot be safely disposed of in this manner, so take care to double check that a can is empty before you toss it.

Method 1
Disposing of Empty Cans

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    Ensure that the can is empty. Before you toss your aerosol can, take a moment to make sure that it is really empty. If no product comes out of the nozzle and it does not appear to be clogged, the can is empty enough to dispose of safely.[1]
    • If you're not sure if the can is empty, try shaking it. You shouldn't feel any liquid moving inside.
    • Aerosol cans that are not empty must be treated differently, as disposing of a partially full aerosol can can be dangerous.
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    Refrain from modifying the can. You don't need to alter an aerosol can in any way dispose of it. Leave the can exactly the way it is, no matter how you end up disposing of it .[2]
    • Aerosol cans are pressurized, which means they may explode is tampered with. Never attempt to puncture an aerosol can or expose it to extreme heat. Do not attempt to remove the spray nozzle from the can, even though it is usually plastic.
    • If the can has a plastic lid, you can remove this for recycling. (The lid is likely recyclable too.)
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    Consider the contents of the can. Not all aerosol cans are created equal. Some contain hazardous materials, so you may not be able to dispose of them in your regular trash or recycling. Check the can for indications that it contains hazardous waste. [3]
    • If the can has specific directions for disposal on it, make sure you follow them. In some cases, you may be required to take the can to a hazardous waste disposal center.
    • If you are unsure whether a specific can can be recycled, call your town's recycling center and let them know the contents of the can.
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    Check with your town's recycling program. Every municipality has different policies on recycling, so you may or may not be able to recycle an aerosol can in your area. Look up your city or county's regulations online or call them to inquire about whether aerosol cans are accepted for recycling.[4]
    • If you do not have single stream recycling in your area, be sure to put your aerosol can with your other metal recyclables.
    • If there are no options for recycling an aerosol can in your area, you can throw it in the regular trash (as long as it is empty and the can does not indicate that it needs to be treated as a hazardous material).
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    Get paid for your aerosol cans. Since many aerosol cans are made of steel or aluminum, some scrap yards may be willing to take them. If you want to be sure before you visit the scrap yard, call ahead of time.[5]
    • This may not be worth your time if you only have one or two cans. If you have a large number of cans, however, it can really add up.
    • While you're at the scrap yard, you may be able to sell other metal scraps as well, like aluminum soda cans. This is especially helpful in states that don't have deposits on cans. (If your state does have deposits, it may be more convenient to return your soda cans at the grocery store.)[6]

Method 2
Disposing of Full or Partial Full Cans

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    Do not throw away an aerosol can that is not empty. It may not seem like a big deal to throw a partially full can of hairspray or cleaning product in the garbage, but it can actually be very dangerous. Because aerosol cans are pressurized, they explode if they are exposed to high heat or flattened. This could even happen in the garbage truck, which could cause injuries.[7]
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    Try to use the product until the can is empty. The easiest way to get rid of the aerosol can is simply to use the product until the can is empty, and then dispose of the can in the recycling or trash.
    • If you can’t use it yourself, consider donating it to someone who will use it. For example, cans of spray paint may be used by local artists or students. Your friends or family members may also be able to use your products.
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    Do not attempt to empty the can except by using the product. When you bring a partially full aerosol can to a hazardous waste collection site, they may puncture it to remove the contents and allow the can to be recycled. While this can be done by trained professionals with specialized equipment, it should never be done at home! Puncturing an aerosol can can cause an explosion, so please leave it to the experts.[8]
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    Take your partially full aerosol cans to hazardous waste collection site. You can locate a collection facility near you by searching on your city's or county's website. You may need to pay a small fee to safely dispose of your aerosol cans, but it should not be significant.[9]
    • Many towns have events where people can bring in their hazardous waste and get rid of it for free or a reduced cost.

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Categories: Reduce Recycle and Reuse