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Waukesha, Milwaukee officials: Never place propane tanks in recycling bins, trash

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Propane tanks recovered from recycling staff

WAUKESHA COUNTY — Officials from the Waukesha County Department of Parks & Land Use are urging anyone who uses a gas grill to not place emptied propane tanks (big or small) in recycling bins or trash.

Propane tanks discarded in recycling

Propane tanks discarded in recycling

On June 18th, there was an explosion in the baler from a small propane tank which created a small fire that was quickly put out by the staff at the materials recycling facility.

Then on June 25th, there was another propane tank compressed in the baler causing an explosion.  This time, a fire broke out which required the fire department to be called to the scene.  Thankfully, there was no major damage and no one was injured at these two incidents.

Officials say staff at recycling facilities identify and pull non-recyclable and dangerous materials from the line. But they need the public’s help to keep these items from any recycling bin or trash.

CLICK HERE to for a list of propane tank dealers around Waukesha County that could help with disposal

City of Milwaukee Department of Public Works officials are issuing the same warning.

DPW officials say recycling workers at the “Materials Recovery Facility” in the Menomonee Valley have found old, discarded propane tanks in the recyclables being processed.

Officials say propane cylinders pose a very serious health risk to crews who collect recyclables in trucks and staff
members who work at the MRF. During the baling process, recyclables are compressed under hundreds of
pounds of pressure in order to form large bales for shipment. Propane cylinders, even when empty, remain
pressurized and can explode when compacted. This can occur in trucks that collect recyclables from
residents’ homes as well.

“It is essential that residents properly dispose of old propane tanks so they don’t hurt anyone, including
your family members and our sanitation workers,” said DPW Commissioner Ghassan Korban. “These
propane containers cannot be thrown in garbage or recycling carts – they must be handled carefully and
correctly when at the end of their useful lives.”

How to properly dispose of a propane cylinder/tank:

  • Check for a manufacturer’s tag on the tank for disposal/contact information.
  • If reusable, take the tank to a local propane supplier to be inspected and refilled.
  • If the tank is deemed unsafe to use, or you no longer want the tank, many retailers have an exchange program to swap out the old, empty tank for a new, full tank. These retailers will be able to properly dispose of your unwanted tanks.
  • Local scrap metal collectors or home improvement stores may accept empty propane cylinders for
    recycling.
  • DO NOT attempt to open a propane tank, as fumes will leak into the air and cause a dangerous
    situation.
  • Be safe this summer and always – Keep your empty propane cylinders and tanks out of your garbage and
    recycling carts. Dispose of them properly and safely.