Gasoline is a highly dangerous and flammable substance, so it should come as no surprise that recycling it can be a bit complicated.

gascans.jpg Do you have an old lawn mower, boat or car you are hoping to recycle? Before you can take it to a recycler, there is one important thing you need to do: remove and recycle the gasoline. Gasoline is a hazardous, flammable substance, and many recyclers will not accept your item if the tank is still full. How do you recycle something that could explode or start a fire? Very carefully. If you cannot simply place the gasoline in your working lawn mower, boat or car, we have some suggestions of where you can take it. Read on for more details.

Why should you recycle gasoline?

There are three good reasons to recycle gasoline: 
  • It is terrible for the environment.  
  • It is very dangerous.
  • It is illegal to throw it away. 
Gasoline is a very dangerous petroleum product that contains over 150 different chemicals, such as benzene and toluene. It can kill people and animals if they consume it, or irritate their skin and eyes if they come in contact with it. The fumes can make you quite sick or even suffocate you. Plants will not grow in an area contaminated with gasoline and will die if they come into contact with it. The liquid itself is bad for you and the environment, but gasoline is troublesome for another reason: It is extremely flammable. You should never place it (or anything else that can easily catch on fire) in your trash, yard, storm drain, sink or toilet. Gas should also not be used as a solvent for cleaning oil-based paints and other products, and it should not be poured on weeds to kill them (if you are looking for a quick solution for annihilating troublesome weeds, try boiling water instead – it is better for the earth and your health). Check your state’s disposal laws, and I suspect you will find they have very strict requirements about how to dispose of gasoline. Break those laws and you could be looking at a serious fine. So, how should you recycle your gasoline? There are a few places that might take it, and several resources you can call for guidance.

How to recycle gasoline

If you have a full gas can sitting around the house, the best thing to do is wait until your car, lawn mower, leaf blower, boat or other gas-powered device is close to empty. When you are certain you have some room in the tank, pour in the gasoline. But if you cannot do this – perhaps you drive a diesel vehicle, or the gasoline is old enough that you do not want to use it – plan to take it to your local household hazardous waste center. They probably will not recycle it, as gasoline is very difficult to recycle, but they will make sure it gets disposed of in a safe, responsible manner. Every county should have a facility designed to accept very dangerous materials like gasoline. Call your county waste management agency or visit their website to learn more about the household hazardous waste program. Their hours and policies vary greatly depending on where you live. Some communities, such as Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and Sioux Falls, have facilities that are open almost every day. In other places, such as Tucson and Houston, the household hazardous waste drop-off center is only open a couple of times each month. Many places accept hazardous waste for free, since they want to encourage people to dispose of their waste responsibly. Others charge fees for some or all items. If you are having trouble getting in touch with your household hazardous waste center, check with your waste hauler to see if they know how to get in touch with them. Or try your local fire department to see if they have any advice about where you can take your unwanted gas for safe disposal. If you own a business and need to dispose of gasoline, you may be able to hire a hazardous waste disposal company that will come and pick up your unwanted products. It probably will not be cheap, but since household hazardous waste centers are sometimes limited to homeowners, it may be your best option. If you are looking for more details on recycling gasoline, the American Petroleum Institute has a very detailed fact sheet. Click here to view it. The National Institutes of Health’s Medline Plus website has some helpful information on what to do if you come into contact with any gasoline during the recycling process. If it gets on your skin or in your eyes, wash the area for at least 15 minutes and have someone call your doctor. If you swallow any gasoline, contact your local poison control center for instructions. Do not force yourself to vomit. If you inhale too much and feel dizzy, go to an area where you can get plenty of fresh air.

How to transport gasoline for recycling

Given that gasoline is so dangerous, you will want to take care when transporting it. Make sure the gasoline is in a leak-proof container that is meant to hold gasoline. The lid should be tightly sealed. Do not fill the container more than 95 percent full (this will allow any fumes to expand without pushing off the top of the container). While it is okay to transport other hazardous substances at the same time, do not mix them together in the same container. Place the gasoline jug upright in a larger receptacle in case the jug leaks. Drive carefully so the container does not tip over. And whatever you do, refrain from smoking while you are in the car in case any fumes have escaped.