I have a number of old gas canisters commonly used in camp stoves.

  • They have been around for over 5 years and have rusted - that is to say their condition is questionable.
  • They are all 80% butane, 20% propane (my single burner camp stove claims it can take butane only)
  • Some are half full, others are completely full

I asked the local council but even after ringing other departments all they could tell me is that they should not go into my regular/recycling bin.

I asked the local dump, but they told me that they must be empty first. They also said that there are places where you can empty gas cylinders (for BBQs, etc) but didn't know any place that could/would empty camp stove canisters.

I asked a couple outdoor shops (BCF, etc), but the only suggestion I got was to manually release the gas myself. My concern is that releasing 4-5 full canisters of gas into my back yard would be too dangerous.

How do you safely dispose of these old and rusty camp stove gas canisters? I am in Australia.

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Jan 3, 2018 at 19:22
  • Possible duplicate of What's the best way to use up (and dispose of) almost-empty butane canisters?
    – RoboKaren
    Commented Jan 6, 2018 at 8:15
  • 1
    @RoboKaren - I don't think it is. Mine is about... - butane+propane canisters VS pure butane - old /rusted/unsafe canisters VS relatively new/safe canisters - full canisters VS 'left overs'
    – dave37
    Commented Jan 6, 2018 at 14:38
  • The point is that you can use the old partially empty cans to refill some empty camping cylinders and kill two birds with one stone.
    – RoboKaren
    Commented Jan 7, 2018 at 0:53

5 Answers 5


You are correct that using or any attempt to empty damaged or rusty containers has a significant potential for personal injury or death.

This is the US redneck answer, it may not be appropriate in your (or any) area.

Use them for target practice with a long range rifle. Place the containers down range on the ground, return to the shooting line and when all is clear, shoot them with the rifle. They will empty quickly. The empty containers can then be disposed of.

Alternate: Contact the local gun club and offer the full containers for target practice.

Safe choice:

Contact your local fire department, they should understand the risk these canisters pose and not make the suggestion to manually release the gas yourself. They should either know of a safe disposal location, or may be interested in using them for training. Fire departments often have live fire events, and may be able to burn these in controlled and educational manner.

  • 3
    hahaha, interesting idea - but in Australia most us don't have guns and gun ranges/clubs are pretty rare. However, the fire dept is a good idea
    – dave37
    Commented Jan 3, 2018 at 13:57
  • 1
    @user6122771 In Australia you could probably just least them in the Kimberly for a day and let the sun blow them for you.
    – ShemSeger
    Commented Jan 5, 2018 at 22:59

In some of the National Parks in the United States there is actually a program to recycle the containers.

The Propane Bottle Recycler (PBR), a mobile propane cylinder recycling unit, is now being utilized to recycle an estimated 20,000, small, one-pound propane cylinders discarded in the greater Yellowstone area each year. The recycling function of this unit is twofold —the PBR is powered by propane that is extracted from the canisters and recycled; the canisters are then flattened to be recycled into steel. . As a result of the success of this unit, other national and state parks, as well as Canadian parks have instituted this program.


According to Verne, the new machine can remove residual propane from cylinders used for camp stoves, barbecue grills and lanterns and process it in just one minute. The old machine required more than 30 minutes for one cylinder. The new vehicle also is more efficient since it only requires one person to operate, and the new design built atop a trailer allows Yellowstone to recycle the scrap metal from the cylinders while storing any remaining propane for use in park equipment like mowers and forklifts.


Maybe there would be something similar in Australia?


Putting my comment into an answer - I don't think you need to over think it, they are nothing special. Propellant for most aerosols is Butane, these have an odor added, so are no different than a can of air freshener and could be used as one if you like the smell of gas.

As the amount of butane in each can is not that much, I would put them into a cooker (outside), use a detergent spray to check for leaks.

If there is no leak, light it and let the gas burn.
If there is a leak, I would leave the cooker outside in a safe, open space (away from combustibles) and let the gas run out without lighting it, you may want to open the valve on low and leave it overnight. Ideally do this on a day with a bit of breeze to disperse the gas (mainly for the smell). As gas is heavier than air, I would sit the cooker up high on a table top, and make sure there are no open pits close by (e.g. swimming pools etc.) for the heavy gas to accumulate in. Some might suggest keeping smokers away while doing this - however I am normally non-interventionist, and believe in letting nature take its course.

  • I added a bit of formatting to your answer to let the "leak" vs "no leak" cases stand out a bit more. I hope this is ok with you :-)
    – anderas
    Commented Jan 4, 2018 at 7:03
  • If there is no leak, you could also use the gas to cook instead of wasting it by simply letting it burn.
    – anderas
    Commented Jan 4, 2018 at 20:33

There must be some kind of "free list" or "sell list" where you can give away stuff in your area. Maybe you can find someone that has a stove that is compatible with these things. Perhaps the local outdoor store can help, although they see these free canisters as offsetting sales of new ones. A outdoor club would be a good place to ask.

It's probably not a good idea to take them backpacking due to their condition, but maybe the person with the compatible stove can use the stove in his back yard for some types of cooking, or whatever.

That way the propane and butane, and the energy it took to refine them, aren't completely wasted. The use of these canisters should, in theory, offset other energy use.

  • I guess I could try Gumtree (and include a disclaimer)
    – dave37
    Commented Jan 3, 2018 at 12:53
  • 1
    If it wasn't for the rust on the sealing face that would be a good idea. As it is I'm doubtful. I reckon the 80:20 mix would be fine in the stove meant for butane, with a most likely failure mode that it wouldn't give a very good flame so the OP could do the backyard cooking themselves
    – Chris H
    Commented Jan 3, 2018 at 20:09

You will not have any problems with propane or butane being released in your yard, unless there are sparks or a heat source near by, or if there are low areas leading into a house.

I would manually release the gas, one can a day - and don't burn the gas. In this manner, the gas will naturally dissipate.

The issue for you then becomes what to do with the spent canisters; and for that you'd have to defer to local code. Some will require you show evidence of physical destruction (eg, crushed or with a hole in it). For this, you could flatten them with a car. You use a vice, but this leads to a potential for a spark setting off residue gas, you really don't want that.

In any case, I would not ignite the gas in a stove. If you're questioning how to get rid of them, their suitability for consumption is in doubt. Just release the gas and you'll be fine.

By the way, the gas you have is not poisonous if you responsibly release the gas. Propane is an asphyxiant, and it will deplete oxygen in your blood if you do not get to fresh air. The butane in the canister is not enough to be a problem for you if you just dissipate the canister, even if the canister is in your hand. Just aim it away from you and you'll be fine.

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