Small aerosol cans of the sort usually found in a kitchen are a potential hazard, and they need to be handled with care. In general, they are recyclable, but only if they are truly empty. The test is that there is no liquid inside, and you can hold the trigger down for 10 seconds with nothing coming out. If they are not entirely empty, they tend to explode inside the baling machine, which subjects them to very high pressures. That can damage the machines, of course, but it more importantly poses a serious danger to the people running the plant. If there is any propellant or material left inside, the can needs to go to a hazardous waste collection day.

Propane tanks are always hazardous waste and need to be handled that way. While the larger ones for your grill, or camper, can usually be exchanged, or returned to an exchange facility, smaller ones, or larger ones that are outdated or defective, should be taken to Hazardous Waste Day for disposal. If even a small propane tank from a hand-held torch gets into the baler, it can cause a fiery blast of fire from the unit!

Spray paint cans will also explode under pressure, and can cause fires when they do. If there is no gas or paint in the can, it can go in the trash. Otherwise, it’s hazardous waste.

Paint itself can be recycled, whether it is latex or older, oil based paint. A paint can that is leaking, is not fully empty (except as noted below), and/or has no label on it describing what it holds, it should go to hazardous waste day. Plastic cans with no residue, but with a recycling triangle, can be recycled. They are otherwise trash, if dry, or hazardous waste, if not dry.

For regular paint cans, we have a program called PaintCare, in which the cans are returned to the store for recycling. Sherwin Williams supports this program locally in all of their stores. The collectors are interested in the paint, not in the cans here, so there are several conditions that apply:

1. They will not recycle empty paint cans, which can be simply dried out by leaving the lid off for a while, then the cans can be put into the trash. They are not recyclable with any paint residue in them.

2. They will recycle paint cans that have less than 2 inches of paint in them, and can take latex house paint, oil based house paint, primer, stains and sealers, varnish and shellac. Sherwin Williams will take five 1-gallon cans per household per day.

3. They do not recycle paint thinner, two component paint, aerosols, other chemicals, unlabeled or leaking containers or boat paint.

4. Sherwin Williams takes cans bought in other stores.

The Recycle Bin is a weekly column on what to recycle, what not to recycle, and why, in Brunswick. The public is encouraged to submit questions by email to [email protected]. Harry Hopcroft is a member of the Brunswick Recycling and Sustainability Committee. 

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