Cylinder Recovery and Disposal

When a gas cylinder is empty or no longer required, there is usually a choice for managing its disposal.  In all cases, it is vital to ensure cylinders are handled safely and responsibly.

Under normal use and always when a gas cylinder contains a gas (other than atmospheric air at ambient pressure), it shall be stored in accordance with BCGA CP 44The storage of gas cylinders.

WARNING:

  • Gas cylinders contain hazardous substances.  There are many gases, all with different properties, examples include being flammable, oxidant, asphyxiant, toxic, corrosive, etc.  These can impact on both people and the environment.
  • Gases are stored under pressure, which can mean the cylinder will have a large amount of stored energy.  In the event of a rupture, the gas can be released suddenly and catastrophically.  This is a particular concern if the gas cylinder is involved in a fire or it is unsafely handled during waste management.

The materials used to manufacture cylinders and their valves are usually suitable for recycling.  The recycling of these materials should be included within a company’s environment and sustainability policy. They should be disposed of at a licenced waste management facility.

Before taking any disposal activity, first identify who is the owner of the cylinder.  The owner’s permission is required for the disposal of a gas cylinder. To identify the cylinder owner may be as simple as looking at the label.  An example of a typical label is shown in BCGA TIS 6Gas cylinder identification. Label and colour code requirements.  Additionally, the name of the owner is usually permanently marked on the shoulder of the cylinder.  

The vast majority of gas cylinders in circulation in the UK are re-usable, these are normally supplied under a contract arrangement (which usually requires the user to pay rental on the cylinder until its return) and remain the property of the gas supplier.  Following their return, they undergo a safety inspection and, if satisfactory, will be re-filled ready for the next customer.  The simplest and best way to return these cylinders is to identify the owner (or the point of contact on your contract arrangement) and request that it is collected.   Even if the cylinder was not originally supplied to the site where it is discovered, the owner will make arrangements to have it collected.

Individuals who own gas cylinders, e.g. sport divers, are responsible for the safe disposal of their own cylinders. This will include releasing the gas in a safe manner and, where safe and practical, removing the valve assembly from the cylinder. The cylinder should be made unfit for re-use (as a gas cylinder). 

Some cylinders are sold as non-refillable, e.g. calibration cylinders.  The new owner is responsible for its safe disposal, unless they have a disposal arrangement with the seller.  Any remaining gas must be released and the cylinder made unfit for re-use (as a gas cylinder).  The seller of a non-refillable cylinder will usually provide advice on safe disposal, and may provide a special tool to release the gas and make the valve un-usable.  Advice is available in BCGA TIS 28, Non-refillable cylinders.

Some cylinders may contain specialty gases  e.g. those that may have a significant impact on people or the environment.  The gas may require particular handling and disposal requirements. Additional advice on these gases can be found in BCGA CP 18The safe storage, handling and use of special gases. These cylinders must not be disposed of until the gas has been safely removed.

Guidance on the safe and appropriate actions that should be taken to manage gas cylinders at a waste management facility is available in BCGA Leaflet 2.  This includes advice on making a cylinder unfit for further use (as a gas cylinder).

Help with cylinder recovery and disposal

If you have a cylinder or valve that you believe not to be safe or compliant (e.g. with the Carriage of Dangerous Goods legislation) then, in the first instance, seek the advice of the cylinder owner and they will work with you to make the cylinder safe and put in place the necessary arrangements for the return of the cylinder.

In very rare cases, a cylinder or valve that has become damaged or that leaks, may require a special approach to ensure that it can be recovered safely and legally (e.g. transportation in accordance with the Carriage of Dangerous Goods legislation).  This is of particular concern where the gas contents are flammable or toxic.  The cylinder may have to be moved to an installation which is able to make it safe – this activity is referred to as ‘salvage’.

Salvage requires specialist equipment and is subject to its own set of rules.  It should only be attempted by those with the competence, experience, knowledge and specialist equipment necessary to accomplish the task safely and legally.

Where it is not possible to identify either the owner, or the contents, of the gas cylinder, it may be necessary to employ a specialist organisation that has the technical and legal capability to collect and dispose of the gas and the cylinder.  Several BCGA Member companies can help with the recovery / disposal of gases and the cylinders, including where the original supplier cannot be contacted.

For liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) cylinders, additional advice is available from Liquid Gas UK.

Where gas cylinders are received at a waste management facility BCGA Leaflet 2, The safe handling of gas cylinders at waste facilities, outlines the process to be followed to establish legitimate ownership and to ensure that a cylinder is in a safe condition for processing and disposal.  It also includes contact details for the major gas suppliers.  Note that gas suppliers will have their own contractual arrangements in place for the safe disposal of their gas cylinders that are no longer required.

Licenced Waste Management Facilities

The BCGA and Liquid Gas UK have joined forces to improve the means by which cylinders belonging to their members can be removed promptly from a licenced waste management facility.

By calling the contact numbers below, cylinders owned by these companies will be collected from an authorised licenced waste management facility by authorised staff carrying appropriate identification.

Advice on the disposal of other cylinders or unbranded cylinders is available by calling: 01227 462008

Posters are available for display at authorised waste management facilities.  Copies can be downloaded in English and Welsh.

Several BCGA member companies provide services for the recovery and disposal of gas cylinders. For contact information, please click here.

Additional information regarding cylinder recovery and disposal can be found via the agency website links below:

Committees

Within BCGA cylinder recovery and disposal is the responsibility of Technical Sub-Committee (TSC) 2. Members can access information on TSC2via the Committee Meetings page.

Publications

Publications

CP18 The safe storage, handling and use of special gases. Revision 3: 2014

01/09/2014 Codes of Practice CP18

Provides technical and safety guidelines and principles for the safe storage and handling of special gases in transportable containers up to the point where product is provided at the required pressure and flow at the junction with the user process.Guidelines on disposal are also given.The safe operation of processes is not included, although many of the principles given in this Code will apply.

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CP44 The storage of gas cylinders. Revision 1: 2022

17/06/2022 Codes of Practice CP44

This document defines the principles of safe practice for the storage of gas cylinders and bundles. It promotes the use of an outdoor store, with good natural ventilation, in a secure location, which meets the required separation distances.

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TIS6 Gas cylinder identification. Label and colour code requirements. Revision 4: 2023

10/11/2023 Technical Information Sheets TIS6

An explanation of the content of a typical gas cylinder label and a guide to the colour codes used on gas cylinders.

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TIS28 Non-refillable cylinders. Revision 1: 2021

16/04/2021 Technical Information Sheets TIS28

Non-refillable cylinders are widely used. They have similar hazards to other types of gas cylinders and are required to comply with the appropriate legislation and standards, as well as undergoing conformity assessment. Once empty they must not be refilled and must be disposed of responsibly.

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L2 The safe handling of gas cylinders at waste facilities. Revision 6: 2016

11/05/2016 Leaflets L2

Provides guidance on the safe and appropriate actions that should be taken to manage gas cylinders at a waste facility. This includes establishing that a cylinder is in a safe condition, any contents are identified and that there is a legal right to carry out any disposal activity.

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BCGA provide several publications which include advice on managing gas cylinders safely. All BCGA publications are accessible via the Publications page.