Metal fire extinguishers can be refilled rather than thrown away when empty, unless it was manufactured before 1984. Extinguishers made of plastic are not recyclable and should be placed in the regular trash when empty.
Fire extinguishers consist of a hand-held cylindrical pressure-vessel, usually made of steel or aluminum, and an agent which can be discharged to extinguish a fire.
There are two main types of fire extinguishers: stored pressure and cartridge-operated. Stored pressure fire extinguishers are the most common and typically contain a dry chemical as the agent. The dry chemical is typically mono ammonium sulfate, sodium bicarbonate or potassium bicarbonate—all of which are considered non-toxic.
Very old fire extinguishers (pre 1960’s) may contain carbon tetrachloride, a known carcinogen. If you have a very old fire extinguisher that contains carbon tetrachloride, contact the Solid Waste District.
How should you dispose of an old fire extinguisher?
If it’s not empty:
The casing is usually made out of steel or aluminum and can be recycled. Recyclers will not accept containers that are not empty so you must discharge all contents first. Discharge outside, away from children or pets. Eye protection and a mask are recommended when discharging.
* Pull the pin on the extinguisher—this unlocks the operating lever.
* Squeeze the lever above the handle to discharge contents.
* Aim low and discharge contents into a bucket or another container.
After you’ve finished discharging extinguisher contents and nothing else comes out, remove the head from the container—this will let the recycler know that the extinguisher is empty. Remove any plastic pieces (plastic pieces go in the trash) and take to a scrap metal yard for recycling. Dispose of the collected non-toxic dry-chemical agent in the trash.
If it’s empty:
* Squeeze the lever above the handle to ensure that all contents are discharged.
* Remove the head so that the recycler knows the container is empty.
* Recycle the steel body. Once the head is removed, the container can be taken to a scrap metal yard.
Do not place empty fire extinguishers in your curbside recycling.
For a list companies in Cuyahoga County that properly dispose of fire extinguishers, including commercial products, see ourBusiness Recycling Directory.