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.
Kevin Wilson is Sales Manager at
Gasco. For more information, email
Info@gascogas.com or call Gasco at
Eliminate cylinder clutter. 1-800-910-0051.