Propane Tank Recycling

The 20-pound, refillable propane tank: It doesn't matter if you call it a grill tank, grill cylinder, barbecue tank, or patio heater cylinder. What matters is what you do with it when it's no longer needed. Proper propane tank recycling is something every propane user should be familiar with.

Information For Propane Users

There are two things you can do with an unwanted propane tank. If it’s serviceable, it can be reused or requalified depending on how old the tank is. If the tank is heavily rusted, damaged, punctured or deemed to be unusable by a qualified professional it can be recycled.

Recycling Your Propane Tank

If for some reason you no longer need your 20-pound propane tank, the best thing you can do is recycle it. Because there’s a possibility of propane remaining in the tank, many recyclers, such as municipal refuse centers, will not accept propane tanks, bottles, and cylinders for recycling. Take your unwanted propane tank to a propane exchange cage for collection.

Another good reason to choose a recycler that specializes in propane tanks is safety. If it’s reusable, your tank will be repainted, re-certified, and if necessary, fitted with an Overfill Protection Device (OPD).

Propane tanks are specially designed to hold nothing but liquid propane (LP). During their initial construction, each tank is stamped with its date of manufacture. For 12 years following this date the tank may be refilled. After 12 years, the tank must have a visual inspection and can then continue to be filled at 5 year increments following each 5 year requalification inspection. At the end of it’s life, the tank will need to be recycled.


  • Drop off the tank at a propane refilling or exchange location.
  • Call a local propane dispenser station about recycling or requalifying your tank.
  • You can find local propane exchange locations listed below.


  • Do not throw the tank in your trash or a dumpster.
  • Do not discard the tank improperly or litter.
  • Do not attempt to remove the valve or otherwise cut or puncture the tank.

Recognizing a Propane Tank

The 20-pound propane tank is one of the most common propane containers. For safety reasons, it’s important to know how to recognize one, so it can be recycled properly. Here’s what to look for.

These tanks are 18 inches tall and 12.5 inches in diameter, and are usually painted white or some other reflective color. Each tank features a steel footer to keep it upright, and a protective collar around the service valve. The valve will look triangular or similar to a faucet handle.

Tips For Transfer Station Personnel

If you work in a transfer station that accepts propane and other tanks for recycling or disposal, there are some important things you should know. Rule number one: Treat all previously used propane tanks as if they have some amount of gas in them. Simply opening the valve to verify if gas is remaining will not work. There is a special safety device built into every propane cylinder valve that will not allow gas to flow unless it is connected to an appliance. Don't be fooled by thinking a tank is empty if nothing comes out the valve. Tanks containing fuel under pressure may explode if tank integrity is altered, causing severe injuries or even death. Just remember, play it safe. Propane is a flammable material, and it must be handled or disposed of properly. The following are other measures you should take whenever you're handling used propane tanks, cylinders, or bottles.

Do Not Attempt To Remove Valve From Tank

Special safety equipment is required to prevent an explosion. Removal of valves involves costly equipment and extensive training to meet the requirements set out in National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 58 1-5 (Qualifications of Personnel) and 4-2.2.1 (Emergency Response Procedures).

Do Not Attempt to Empty Tanks

Escaping propane gas is a fire hazard. Additionally, propane gas is heavier than air, meaning it can pool in unexpected areas, and later ignite. For disposable propane bottles, it’s important to use up all residual gas.

Always Store Propane Tanks Outside

Even if you believe the propane tanks to be empty, always store them outside in an area where they are least likely to suffer from physical damage or tampering (NFPA 58 5-2.1.1). Keep propane separate from other collected items and away from heat, hot surfaces, sparks, open flames and other ignition sources, including smoking. Finally, tanks should always be stored in an upright position. Never store tanks on their side or upside down.

Never Put Obsolete Tanks In a Dumpster or Other Disposal Container

Placing a propane tank in a dumpster can pose a serious safety concern if the trash truck compacts its load, possibly crushing and rupturing the cylinder, releasing the rest of the propane. This could create an explosion hazard. Scrap metal yards may take unwanted tanks, but they face the same issue: Risk of explosion should one of these tanks get into their system.

Do Not Cut Propane Tanks

Avoid cutting or puncturing the tank with a torch or cutting wheel. The tank may still contain propane, creating a potential fire or explosion hazard.

GET These Safety Facts

You can download all the recycling and disposal safety tips on this page.

Download Fact Sheet


Recycle Your Tank With These Suppliers

Contact any of these local propane suppliers when you’re ready to get rid of your 20-pound propane tank. They’ll ensure it’s recycled or disposed of properly. Click on a supplier to find a location near you.