Perception is Reality: What’s in that Empty Cylinder?
What’s in that Empty Cylinder?
Finding the best way to dispose of empty calibration gas cylinders is an age-old dilemma. These days, most calibration gas mixtures come in small transportable cylinders and are used to calibrate on portable and fixed gas detectors. Made from aluminum or steel, these cylinders, when empty, are defined by their users in many different ways. Some consider them normal waste, some treat them as scrap metal, and others define their cylinders as hazardous waste and pay environmental companies to pick them up for a fee.
Disposing of cylinders as normal waste can present some problems. Finding empty cylinders in a company’s waste — possibly with some remaining level of pressure in them and/or labeled with toxic and combustible compounds — could attract unwanted attention. As perception is reality — no matter what the final cylinder disposal determination may be — cylinder users have to address the disposal problem in such a way not to draw unwanted attention.
The Recycling Option
These days, sending empty cylinders to a metal recycler is common, but the process is cumbersome. When sending disposable aluminum cylinders to a recycle company, the cylinders must be completely emptied with valves removed. To do this, the cylinder is placed in a vise, and using a special tool with some elbow grease, the valve can be removed.
Once the valve is removed, most recycle companies require the cylinders to be cut in half. Needless to say, this process pushes many companies to delay recycling until it’s absolutely necessary (i.e., once the stack of cylinders becomes a true hindrance).
Cylinders as Hazardous Waste
Classifying the cylinders as hazardous waste, like many large organizations do and some states require, seems to be a growing trend. In general, calibration gas can create confusion when it comes to determining exactly what the cylinder contains (whether empty or full). Key questions that companies are asking include: Are the contents hazardous? When empty, is there toxic residue in the cylinder? Is there still remaining pressure in the cylinder? And, is the empty cylinder defined as “hazardous” by state or local governments?
In most cases, the answers to these questions are hard to find by simply searching through CFRs, and are therefore usually left to a consultant. Most companies don’t spend the time to further investigate these questions and oftentimes chose to hire an environmental contractor to haul away the cylinders.
Solving the Problem
A viable and smart solution to the problem of identifying and disposing of cylinders properly is the reusable cylinder — a good option for both end users and distributors, and one that also has responsible manufacturing attributes (i.e., reclaiming waste that results from the manufacturing of a product).
We believe products like Gasco’s ecosmart™ calibration gas cylinders will become an industry standard. These reusable cylinders are the same physical size and use the same C-10 valve connections as disposable cylinders. In conjunction with its ecosmart cylinders, Gasco offers the eco M/T, a tool that makes returning the ecosmart cylinder simple and safe. This tool allows users to release excess gas, thus ensuring the cylinders are empty and nonhazardous and offering additional safety assurance to the carrier.
When the ecosmart cylinder is empty or expired, the customer simply removes the label wrap by pulling on a perforated strip, an EMPTY sticker will be revealed. The customer then installs the eco M/T tool by twisting it into the cylinder valve to relieve any remaining gas, and returns it to Gasco. There is no return shipping cost to the customer. Since 2007, when these alternative replacements to disposable cylinders were introduced, the ecosmart program has solved the issue of what to do with empty cylinders. Gasco practices responsible manufacturing offering an end of life cylinder recycling program.