Managing Used Aerosol Cans

For businesses, aerosol cans pose a unique hazardous waste determination problem because they consist of three different types of materials, each of which may be classified as hazardous waste — the can itself, liquid product contained in the can, and the gaseous propellant.

Disclaimer: The information below is intended to serve as a guide to responsible waste management and does not supersede Delaware’s Regulations Governing Hazardous Waste (7 DE Admin. Code 1302).

Households are exempt from the regulations (See §261.4(b)(1)).

Under the Universal Waste Rule (UWR), small and large quantity handlers of universal waste aerosol cans, as described in §273.6 of Delaware’s Regulations Governing Hazardous Waste, are afforded alternative management requirements.

Universal waste is a special category of hazardous waste items that are commonly generated by businesses in relatively small quantities. Universal waste regulations are more streamlined to encourage recycling and lessen the regulatory requirements of handlers and transporters of universal waste. Spent batteries, waste pesticides, mercury-containing equipment, waste lamps, and, most recently, waste aerosol cans may be managed as universal waste, as opposed to fully regulated hazardous waste, under the UWR.

Universal waste handlers can accumulate intact waste aerosol cans in containers, sort cans by type, or even remove the actuator from the cans to reduce the risk of an accidental release provided that each can remains intact and not breached. Universal waste aerosol cans that show evidence of leakage must be packaged in a separate closed container or overpacked with absorbents, or immediately punctured and drained in accordance with the requirements discussed below.

Universal waste handlers may choose to use an aerosol can puncturing device to completely empty aerosol cans of product, release all gaseous propellants, and eliminate the danger of can explosion due to heat and/or pressure. After puncturing and draining, universal waste handlers must recycle and manage the punctured aerosol cans in accordance with §273.13(e)(4) and §273.33(e)(4).

It remains the responsibility of the generator of any particular waste to make an accurate hazardous waste determination both on the empty can and the drained contents of the can. However, a steel aerosol can that does not contain a significant amount of liquid (i.e., emptied through puncturing, with a hazardous waste determination made on the drained contents to ensure proper disposal) would meet the definition of scrap metal, and if it is recycled, is exempt from Delaware’s Regulations Governing Hazardous Waste.

Puncturing and Draining

Handlers of universal waste who wish to puncture and drain aerosol cans must:

Use a device specifically designed to safely puncture aerosol cans and contain the residual contents.

Establish and follow a written procedure detailing how to safely puncture and drain universal waste aerosol cans.

Ensure that employees are trained on proper procedure.

Ensure that puncturing is done in a manner designed to prevent fires and to prevent the release of any component of universal waste to the environment.

Immediately transfer the contents from the waste aerosol can or puncturing device to a compatible container. Commonly, the can puncturing device will be attached to a container acceptable for accumulation (e.g., drum).

Conduct a hazardous waste determination on the contents of the emptied can.

A written procedure must be in place in the event of a spill or release and a spill clean-up kit must be provided. All spills or leaks of the contents of the aerosol cans must be cleaned up promptly.

Recycling punctured aerosol cans as a scrap metal will help reduce some hazardous waste regulatory requirements, save you money on disposal cost and be beneficial to the environment and the State of Delaware.