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[GreenYes] Replies Re: Expired fire extinguishers questions
Title: Replies Re: Expired fire extinguishers questions
Below my original inquiry are cut & paste answers I received; sorry it took me so long to do this, and apologies for any cross-postings.   -Stephanie
PS:  If you download this message to print front-to-back it will equal 8 pages.
On 7/11/01 8:49 AM, "Stephanie C. Davis" <> wrote:
> Apologies for any cross-postings.
> Besides taking an expired fire extinguisher to one’s household hazardous
> waste site or event (if they accept these) - what can one do with them?
> * Are they really useless past the expiration date/when the pointer
> indicator is in the red zone?  (Mine, half-way in the green zone after
> 10+years, reads:  “Discard when pointer is in the red area”.  I’m guessing
> there are a lot of fire extinguishers in municipal landfills.  Besides the
> toxic contents, these are pressurized canisters that can explode under the
> pressure of landfill gases.  Not a good thing.)
> * Can they be “refurbished”  so the owner can continuously reuse the
> canister and only the contents is disposed or recycled?
> * Can the contents be recycled?
> * Does it make a difference whether it is an individual or a large facility
> (with multiple fire extinguishers) and the ability to refurbish/recycle – if
> this is done at all?
> * If recycling is an option, does any one know what companies do this?
> Thanks for any info on this.  -Stephanie
If the fire extinguishers is anything other than the smallish, household
use, there are companies in business to supply and refurbish fire

Many, but not all, fire extinguishers consist of a fine powder propelled by
gas pressure.  The gas pressure is what is measured in the gauge.  Over
time, the powder, which is largely sodium bicarbonate, settles and forms a
block.  This block would not be then propelled out in case of an emergency.

Service, normally consists of checking the condition of the extinguisher,
repeatedly rapping on the side with a rubber mallet to break up the block.
They would also bring up the gas pressure to the correct level.  

Since this is a pressured cylinder, there is probably a time limit on the
cylinders, before they have to be hydro-tested to make sure the cylinder is
in proper condition.

Moral of this story. For anything other than the smallest household ones,
take them to a fire extinguisher firm.

Gary R. Barnes
Environmental Technician II
Industrial Source Control
Bureau of Environmental Services
City of Portland OR
6543 N Burlington Ave
Portland OR 97203-5452
phone (503) 823-7383
Fax     (503) 823-5559


Hi Stephanie.
You wrote:
>Besides taking an expired fire extinguisher to one’s household hazardous
>waste site or event (if they accept these) - what can one do with them?

Every fire extinguisher I've owned over the years could always be
"recharged"  at local fire extinguisher dealers.  Sure, they'd always try to
sell me a new one but never refused to recharge the old one.  I hope fire
extinguishers don't suffer the same fate as mouse traps where they're so
inexpensive people would rather toss them than recharge or recycle them.

Good luck.
Bruce Maine
Research Director
Sustainable Design Services
HDR Architecture


Dear Stephanie,

I think your query is very interesting, and, although I can't really provide
any answers, I would be interested to know a few discover there is
substantial potential for refurbishing such canisters.  Tellus Institute has
been developing a program to promote increased remanufacturing/refurbishing,
and we are always looking for new opportunities that could have a
substantial environmental impact.  I will confess that I don't really know
anything about your organization, or your interest in this issue, but
perhaps there would be potential to collaborate on such a project.  I would
love to hear your thoughts on this.

Best regards,


Michael T. Crow
Associate Scientist
Tellus Institute                   Web:
11 Arlington Street             Phone: (617) 266-5400  Ext. 268
Boston, MA  02116            Fax:  (617) 266-8303


We've checked into what to do with "expired" extinguishers, and have found
that it is more expensive to recharge our models than buy new ones. I'd
like to talk to some of the sales people and see if they can be a little
more customer and environmentally friendly by changing this policy. It may
depend on the type of extinguisher.

A friend had his family practice with an expired extinguisher. It had some
charge left, and it gave his family experience of what to do in an
emergency. Good topic!

Jan Hygnstrom, Extension Project Manager
247 LW Chase Hall
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Lincoln, NE 68583-0726

Phone: 402-472-9614
Fax: 402-472-6338



Stephanie, They are meant to be recharged and tested. In industry there are
requirements to do this on a regular basis. Call a place that sells fire
extinguishers to industry, & they can tell you where to take it.  There is
no reason to landfill them.  tc, pb



Saw your call for info on Tom Watson's listserv.  My husband and I bought a
rechargeable fire extinguisher 20 years ago.  We've had it recharged once
(maybe twice) over the years, and we've still got the original posted by the
kitchen stove just in case of emergency.  We get ours recharged at Best
Equipment at 3101 San Pablo in Berkeley.  If you look in the yellow pages,
you'll see several such companies.  I think that as long as you purchase a
rechargeable one you're fine.  Many commercial enterprises (offices, retail,
etc.) have extinguishers on hand and have them checked annually.  Many of the
recharging companies come out to businesses to do the recharging (I think),
though we've always taken ours to the shop for recharging.  

I suspect that a lot of folks are unaware of the recharging option.  I don't
know if the cheapie extinguishers are rechargeable, but if you give Best
Equipment a call they'll likely help you out here.  

Good Luck,  Kathy Stein


The contracted company who was refilling/refurbishing fire extinguishers at my last job would use/dispose of the powder inside the extinguisher when recharging it annually.

On reusing an extinguisher, the ones with metal nozzles/necks, are reusable/rechargeable- the cheaper ones- sold for kitchen or car, with plastic nozzle/neck are not reusable/rechargeable as the plastic cannot handle repressurizing.  So, purchasing new, one would want to get an extinguisher with a metal neck to be able to take it back in.

When the needle is out of the "good" zone, the powder and/or pressure is likely no longer sufficient to actually extinguish a fire- so it is false security.  Actually, the pressure should be checked about every 3-6 months and the extinguisher turned upside down and pounded with a rubber mallet to "re-fluff" the powder so it does not become stuck in the bottom.

Check with local fire extinguisher sales/service companies if they can use old ones to refurbish, Fire Department may want to use them to demonstrate with.  If the pressure is gone and the nozzle off (generally just unscrews), then I suppose they can be recycled just like any other metal cylinder.  Be careful of ones that are not the ABC powder, there are different rules for them.

Hope that helps-

Michelle G. Minstrell
NCSU Recycling/Solid Waste Manager


Expired or discharged fire extinguishers can only be re-filled if they are
so marked (that is "rechargeable").  If not so marked, they must be


I talked to the representative at Badger Fire Extinguishers.  He pointed out
that there are basically 2 types of fire extinguishers, Household and
commercial/industrial.  Household are usually made w/ plastic valves and
there isn't much you can do w/ one once the pressure is gone (this is what
the gauge is measuring).   Commercial/industrial extinguishers can be
recharged by a vendor.  Look in the yellow pages for companies which perform
this service

He also stated that it is necessary to shake the extinguisher every so
often.  This prevents the powder or chemical from settling.

I hope this helps.

Please keep the environment #1.

John Handzo, Environmental Engineer, Sr.
VA DEQ Pollution Prevention
P.O. Box 10009, Richmond VA 23219
Off    804-698-4079   Fax  804-698-4264


Division of All Fire Test, Inc.
915 Washington Ave. No.
Minneapolis, MN  55401
Phone #: (612)332-3473
Fax #: (612)321-9177                                                                                   

Compressed Gas Cylinder Recycling!

Propanes, fire extinguishers, and most all types of common compressed gas cylinders (ie: oxygen, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, etc.)

Are 100% recycled – NOT incinerated!

Ask yourself these questions:

¸ Do you have or collect compressed gas cylinders from homeowners, businesses or public entities?

¸ Do you currently pay a hazardous waste hauler large fees for incinerating (destroying) these cylinders?

¸ Do you wish to do the environmentally correct thing (recycle) and save money in the process?

Contact All Fire Test, Inc. (Mike Stich) for more information

v Minnesota’s only approved (by Minnesota Pollution Control Agency) compressed gas cylinder recycling facility

Phone: 612-332-3473
Fax:  612-321-9177


Here is the response from my RCRA enforcement folks.

Dianne Wilkins
Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality
Pollution Prevention Program
P.O. Box 1677
Oklahoma City, OK 73101-1677
Phone: (405) 702-9128
Fax: (405) 702-9101

-----Original Message-----
From: Johnson, Tammi
Sent: Friday, July 13, 2001 9:51 AM
To: Wilkins, Dianne
Subject: RE: Expired fire extinguishers questions

Not much really. My experience has been that at least in the commercial
realm those that are expired/past the red zone can and are
fixable/rechargeable by extinguisher companies; I don't know for sure if
household type can be recharged but likely the local fire dept. and
extinguisher companies could tell one this.  I'm not sure the contents could
be recycled, just don't know and I'm not aware of any facilities doing such.

I know there are different types of extinguishers containing different
chemicals (i.e. ones to fight chemical fires, ones to fight electrical
fires, etc.).  Bottom line, have to know what the chemical make-up is of the
contents (i.e. waste determination).  I don't know about the extent of the
pressure issue, certainly we've classified empty spray paint cans and the
like as HW because the propellant remaining is characteristically HW
(ignitable I believe).

Yes, there would be a management/disposal difference between ones from a
residence and ones from a business; those from a residence if hazardous
would be exempt from being managed as hazardous waste and only subject to
solid waste disposal (speaking solely from their management in Oklahoma).
Those business/commercial, if applicable, determined to be nonhaz. would
have to submitted an application to SW for identification and maybe prior
disposal approval (again, OK regulation).


better quality fire extinguishers can be re-charged when the time is
due, the expiration dates are like old food, they may still work (or be
edible) but they may not... check your yellow pages for fire
extinguisher services or supplies.  i've had them recharged in the past
& it's not too expensive.



I strongly suggest you contact a fire protection service.  Fire extinguishers can be refilled, refurbished etc.  If they need to be pressure tested they do that too.  They may not be waste at all unless you are holding on to the very inexpensive disposable type.

Deb Jacobson


           Stephanie C. Davis

NOTE that on TWTh, I can be found at:
          Sutter Delta Medical Center
3901 Lone Tree Way,  Antioch, CA 94509
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      phone:      925-756-1118      fax:     925-779-3044

Where I am the Infection Control Manager,
      work which is separate from WRR
"Get your facts first, then you can distort them as much as you please."
Mark Twain, 1835-1910

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