How Do You Dispose of a Fire Extinguisher Safely?

Industrial Fire
Apr 4,2024

Found old fire extinguishers in dead stock and no longer in working order? Or perhaps you’ve upgraded to new fire extinguishers? Either way, you’re left with fire extinguishers that need disposal. 

If you’ve made it to this post, great. Fire extinguishers must be handled with care when disposed of, and typically speaking, they cannot just get “thrown in the trash.” 

Below, we’ll be answering the question, “How do you dispose of a fire extinguisher?”. This will ensure that you dispose of it in an environmentally friendly and responsible manner. 

Types of Fire Extinguishers

Before anything, you need to identify the type of fire extinguisher you have.

Water Extinguishers

  • Fire Class: Class A.
  • Best Used For: Handling fires that involve common materials like wood, paper, and cloth.
  • Identification: Red container with “WATER” clearly marked.

Foam Extinguishers

  • Fire Class: Class A and Class B.
  • Best Used For: Putting out fires caused by flammable liquids, using foam to suffocate the flames.
  • Identification: Cream body with “FOAM” indicated on the tag.

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Extinguishers

  • Fire Class: Class B and Class C.
  • Best Used For: Extinguishing fires from flammable liquids and electrical gear.
  • Identification: Red container, “CARBON DIOXIDE” or “CO2” in black text, with a distinctive nozzle.

Dry Chemical Extinguishers

  • Fire Class: BC Type: Class B and Class C – ABC Type: Class A, Class B, and Class C.
  • Best Used For: A flexible option for a range of fire types.
  • Identification: A red container with “BC” on a blue label or “ABC” with a white stripe.

Wet Chemical Extinguishers

  • Fire Class: Class K.
  • Best Used For: Addressing fires from cooking oils and fats.
  • Identification: “WET CHEMICAL” printed on a yellow label.

Clean Agent Extinguishers

  • Fire Class: Depends on the agent, so check the label.
  • Best Used For: Safeguarding delicate equipment from damage by leaving no residue.
  • Identification: Typically has a white or pale label with “Clean Agent” or the agent’s name.

Dry Powder Extinguishers

  • Fire Class: Class D.
  • Best Used For: Putting out fires involving metals that can burn.
  • Identification: “DRY POWDER” noted on a blue label, designating Class D fires.

Water Mist Extinguishers

  • Fire Class: Class A and some Class C.
  • Best Used For: Controlling fires with standard materials and possibly safe for electrical fires if the label agrees.
  • Identification: “WATER MIST” on a white label.

Cartridge-Operated Dry Chemical Fire Extinguishers

  • Fire Class: Similar to standard dry chemical types (BC or ABC).
  • Best Used For: These are the same scenarios as regular dry chemical models, often chosen in places where durability and fast refilling are key.
  • Identification: These resemble standard dry chemical models but feature a separate propellant cartridge, typically on the side.

Steps to Dispose of Portable Fire Extinguishers

Step 1: Inspect the Extinguisher

First things first: check your extinguisher thoroughly.

  • Expiration Date: Locate this on the inspection tag; an expired fire extinguisher is a no-go for reuse.
  • Pressure Gauge: Ensure the gauge shows adequate pressure; if it’s dipping into the red zone, the extinguisher may not function.
  • Damage Inspection: Perform a visual inspection and examine for any damage, such as rust or dents. Compromised extinguishers need to be handled by professionals.

Step 2: Discharge the Extinguisher (If Applicable)

Next, you may need to discharge it:

  • Caution: Avoid discharging extinguishers with specialized chemicals or carbon dioxide if they’re pressurized; these require expert training
  • Safe Discharge: Extinguishers like water or dry chemical types with little to no pressure can be safely emptied by you.
  • Discharge Procedure:
    • Find an open area outdoors, ideally away from structures.
    • Wear protective gear like gloves and eye protection.
    • Point the nozzle away from people.
    • Press the lever until it’s fully discharged.

Step 3: Determine the Disposal Method

When it comes to disposal, here’s what you need to know

  • Empty and Undamaged: A local recycling center might accept metal empty fire extinguishers, but confirm their policy first.
  • Special Chemicals or CO2: Even empty, these require a hazardous waste disposal facility due to potential risks.
  • Damaged or Still Pressurized: If the extinguisher is damaged, still has pressure, or hasn’t expired, seek disposal from a professional—perhaps your local fire department or a fire protection company.

For proper disposal, avoid the regular trash can and seek out fire extinguisher drop-offs or hazardous waste facilities.

Your local government or local fire stations can provide the best way to dispose of old extinguisher units and give expert advice on recycling fire equipment.

Recycling Fire Extinguishers

Recycling a fire extinguisher helps to save resources by recovering metals such as steel, reduces the amount of waste in landfills, and lessens the environmental impact by ensuring the safe disposal of leftover chemicals and pressurized gases.

How to Recycle a Fire Extinguisher

If your fire extinguisher doesn’t require professional handling, you can recycle it yourself. You can do this by:

  • Ensuring It’s Empty: Confirm no contents are left by following the safety steps.
  • Removing the Head: Remove the top part, which is often plastic and might need to be thrown away separately.
  • Finding a Recycling Company: Look for places that recycle by:
    • Local Recycling Center: See if they take fire extinguishers for metal scrap recycling.
    • Fire Extinguisher Service Companies: Some local facilities might recycle as a part of their disposal service.
    • Online Resources: Use sites like Earth911 to find recycling experts for fire extinguishers.

Fire Extinguisher Disposal Services

If recycling isn’t an option or your extinguisher has specific agents, it’s essential to opt for professional disposal to ensure safety and responsibility:

  • Fire Extinguisher Service Companies: These businesses often provide services to refill and check extinguishers and can also manage their disposal.
  • Fire Department: Certain fire departments might take old extinguishers for disposal or advise on proper disposal locations.

Household Hazardous Waste Collection Programs

Many local areas provide services for safely handling hazardous items, including fire extinguisher disposal.

  • Collection Sites: Look to your municipal, regional, or waste management authorities for locations where hazardous waste can be dropped off. Their websites or direct communication will offer the necessary instructions.
  • Collection Events: Watch for special hazardous waste collection days in your community where you can take your fire extinguisher to ensure it is dealt with responsibly.

Safety Precautions When Disposing Fire Extinguishers

When disposing of fire extinguishers, take these safety steps:

  • Check the Pressure Gauge
  • Empty Safely Outdoors
  • Use Safety Gear
  • Avoid Incineration or Puncture
  • Comply With Local Laws

Conclusion

As you’ve learned, disposing of an old fire extinguisher is more than just a chore—it’s a critical step for:

  • Ensuring Safety: Proper disposal prevents potential mishaps or misuse, especially if a broken handle or the locking pin is missing, making it a safety device in question.
  • Protecting the Environment: Opting for an environmentally conscious disposal site like a local recycling center or HHW facility helps avert pollution and conserves resources, ensuring that hazardous materials don’t end up in regular trash.
  • Adhering to Regulations: Complying with local fire codes and government regulations by following the right way to dispose of expired fire extinguishers will keep you clear of legal troubles.

For professional guidance and peace of mind, contact Industrial Fire TX. Our experts are equipped to offer excellent services and expert advice for your fire extinguisher disposal and fire safety needs.

About the Author

Industrial Fire

We are a family-owned and operated business. Industrial Fire has proudly served Houston, Texas, for over seven decades. Fire protection technology has changed a lot since we started doing business in 1945. Still, one thing hasn’t changed, our commitment to providing our neighbors in Houston, TX, with the best fire protection services and equipment available.