How to Dispose of Fire Extinguishers

You’ll be glad of having an emergency fire extinguisher either in your home or business just in case the worst happens because they can save valuables and lives. Extinguishers are designed to last as long as possible and since fires aren’t (hopefully) a regular occurrence so they won’t be used up in a hurry but eventually they will need replacing. You might also find that your fire extinguisher is now illegal to use (if it contains Halon), obsolete or even damaged over time. If you’re not sure of any of these you should consult an engineer or expert to identify if your extinguishers need replacing. If this is the case then you’ll need to know how to dispose of your old fire extinguisher correctly and safely.

 How to dispose of an old fire extinguisher

The key point is that used fire extinguishers cannot be put in with everyday recycling or waste as they are classed as hazardous and must be disposed of carefully. Aim to look to recycle your extinguisher wherever possible as it is the responsible action & it puts good use to the available materials that are left. Also the type of extinguisher affects how you can dispose of them. The types of fire extinguishers in use today are:

  • Foam
  • Powder
  • Water
  • C02

For domestic fire extinguisher users
If you are disposing of an old fire extinguisher that you’ve used in the home then you cannot put it in with your household recycling as councils won’t accept them. Along with that that used fire extinguishers may be dangerous for handling by local workers as they are pressured containers.

If you’re looking at disposing either foam or powder extinguishers then the easiest option is to take these to a local recycling centre where they will safely discharge any remaining chemicals from the extinguisher & recycle the remaining materials. It is possible to discharge foam and powder extinguishers yourself to release the contents & pressure leaving you with scrap metal that can be collected. Generally we do not recommend this as this is a messy job and comes with certain conditions to assure the safety of others. However if you are determined to discharge foam & powder extinguishers on your own, there are some guidelines you should follow:

Firefighting foams must not be released into rainwater or groundwater drains as they contain toxic chemicals so therefore should be treated with considerable care & attention to avoid unwanted contamination. Foam extinguishers should be discharged into a sealed drain however we still highly recommend not doing this for domestic users as the expanding foam can easily overwhelm the capacity of the channel causing spillage of toxic chemicals.

Powder extinguishers are generally not recommended for domestic use however due to their long lasting qualities, they are still found in a lot of UK homes. If you are also still determined to not take a powder extinguisher to the local recycling centre and discharge it at home then you can empty one by placing the device upside down and unloading the powder into a biodegradable container which can then be disposed of with your household waste.

C02 extinguishers can be discharged into an outside, open space as the gas simply dissipates however it is important to do this safely and with caution. Never discharge a C02 fire extinguisher without a pipe and frost-free horn properly fitted as the unit is under high pressure and the strong recoil can cause serious injury.

Water extinguishers are the easiest to fully discharge as the water can simply be let off into a drain.

For business fire extinguisher users
For businesses that are required to hold fire extinguishers on public or commercial premises it is often the case that they are regularly serviced, usually annually, by a professional outfit. During this time the service engineer will replace any expired units to be safely disposed of for a small fee or as part of the agreement. Some businesses may also be in the situation of possessing a large amount of used fire extinguishers that require disposing of. In this case there are several specialist films that are able to take fire extinguishers away in bulk for recycling.

Overall we can see that it is important for fire extinguishers to be recycled as it is a responsibility to the environment, useful for collecting materials, and preventing hazardous materials from being exposed. For domestic users, we recommend that you take foam & powder units to your local recycling centre and you can dispose of water & C02 units yourself. These can then be collected as scrap metal. For business users, often the proper systems will have already been set up or can easily be set up with specialist firms to dispose of your units.

For more information on how we can help you with recycling, get in contact with Bronneberg Recycling Machines & Services today!

How to Dispose of Fire Extinguishers