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Ask Chicagoist: Propane Tank Recycling?

By Thales Exoo in Miscellaneous on Jun 13, 2008 5:45PM

2008_06_askpropane.jpgDear Ask Chicagoist,

Now that summer has (finally) rolled around, I've gotten myself a nice little tailgating grill. I even spent the extra cash (thanks, Uncle Sam!) to get a gas grill. One of those nice little compact portables that runs on those little 14.1 oz propane tanks you buy at the hardware store.

The only problem I have now is trying to figure out how to dispose of the empties! They don't seem to be refillable, (if they are, I can't find a place to take them), and it seems like tossing them in the garbage can would be, somehow, dangerous. I'd like to figure out how to recycle them, since they are steel, but I just don't know where to take them.

Can you help?

Our Grilling Friend,

You think throwing them in the garbage sounds dangerous? We agree. But by all means don't take them to a steel recycling place either! Can you imagine? Ka-Boom! There's no real way to know if the cylinders are empty, so the recycling centers won't accept them anyway. Can't really blame them. Plus they don't have the safety valve like the big tanks, so you can't refill and reuse them. Not the most environmentally friendly option out there.

Unfortunately, that means your recycling options are fairly limited. But, like you said, you don't want to casually toss it in the dumpster. The good people over at Coleman have a step-by-step guide about how to dispose of the cylinders. Basically, get away from fire (and don't have a smoke while you're working), hook up the cylinder to your shiny new ill-gotten grill and fire it up. Keep it running until the flame completely goes out (if you think it's empty, we imagine this won't take you all that long). Once everything's cooled off, throw the cylinder away. Outside. Yeah, in a trash can, where it'll go to a landfill to burden our progeny for generations to come. Tasty burger though, eh?

But wait!

We told you the people over at Coleman were good ones. They realize that this technique just really won't cut it and might adversely affect their sales in this here world of green marketing. In walks the Green Key Tool. Insert this little do-hickey in the top of the cylinder, and it's permanently open and there's no need to worry about there still being gas inside. If Coleman's wishes come true, this will become the new de-facto symbol for "It's OK, I'm empty! Please recycle me!" thus silencing the fears of recycling programs everywhere. Oh, but don't put the cap back on after. Recycle that somewhere else. Problem is, until the word spreads about these little guys (they just came out in May), recycling programs like our own blue bin program or any drop-off facility still won't take them.

Happily, you can take your propane tanks to Chicago's Household Chemicals and Computer Recycling Facility. While the website states they don't accept propane tanks, they also say that they'll "still collect these items as (they) have developed outlets for their recycling/reuse." We imagine that simply means that while they aren't going to recycle them with the rest of the stuff, if you point out that you have propane tanks (maybe show off your cool new Green Key so the word gets out) they'll be able to take care of them.

The facility is at 1150 N. North Branch Street (two blocks east of the Kennedy at Division), and open Tuesdays from 7:00am - 12:00pm, Thursdays from 2:00pm - 7:00pm, and the first Saturday of the month from 8:00am - 3:00pm.

Happy grilling. Next time you're looking for an environmentally friendly grilling option (and when price, obviously, is no object), we think this infrared grill sounds like the coolest choice. Specialized wavelength engineering! Yowza!

Image via BernieCB

Looking for propane and propane accessories? Need some advice? Email ask(at)chicagoist(dot)com.