How To Dispose Of Spray Paint Cans? [The Right Way]

Throwing away a spray paint can in the trash is not safe – in fact, it is actually illegal in many cases. It is not because of the can but the contents that are inside the container.

Spray paint contains toxic chemicals such as benzene, toluene, xylene, etc. These toxins can cause serious health problems if they enter your body.

The RCRA has strict regulations on properly disposing of your spray paint cans, including when they are empty or half full. If you don’t follow these guidelines, you could be heavily fined.

So, How to dispose of spray paint cans?

In this article, we will share with you some tips on how to safely dispose of spray paint cans, by following all the requirements of RCRA. So, let’s start.

RCRA requirements for aerosol or spray paint cans disposal

Most spray paint cans used in workplaces contain hazardous materials. Either the product or its propellant is harmful to the environment. Thus, spray paint cans must be disposed of properly.

If you don’t properly handle hazardous waste, you could be fined for it. Aerosol or spray paint cans that have been used but not yet emptied are considered hazardous waste. It is illegal to throw aerosol or spray paint cans into the trash. RCRA defines federal laws for properly managing and disposing of hazardous and non-hazards wastes.

RCRA covers the proper disposal of aerosols. If the can cannot be recycled, it has to be treated as hazardous waste. However, if companies can guarantee they can be sure the can is empty, they can treat it as normal waste and recycle it. When the can meets the conditions specified in Guideline 40 CFR 261.1 (c) (6), it is considered recycled.

how to dispose of spray paint cans
How to dispose of spray paint cans?

RCRA Requirements for Aerosol Disposal

You can exclude aerosols or spray paint cans from the hazardous waste category in two ways.

  1. If the contents of the can are hazardous substances, then the can must completely empty. To be RCRA empty, cans must contain no greater than 1 inch or 3% by weight of residue. These empty cans are classified as non-hazardous waste by RCRA.
  2. The propellant used for spraying the contents of the can could also be hazardous. Therefore, the propellant must be completely used up, which balances out the can to atmospheric pressure.

Most spray paint cans that are ready for disposal will typically fail at least one of these criteria. If left untreated, they will be classified by the RCRA as hazardous waste. Therefore, you need to take care of the spray paint cans before disposing of them.

Also read: What is spray paint made of?

How to Properly Dispose of Spray Paint Cans

When you are done using the spray paint cans, you should always make sure they are empty. You can do this by using Aerosol cans recycling systems. These machines are designed specifically for emptying aerosol cans. They are available online or at most hardware stores.

I would recommend using Justrite Aerosolv Aerosol reclying systems for best results. It is very easy to use. You can use any standard 30- or 50-gallon drum for mounting the puncturing device. Then place an upside-down spray paint can into position and clamp it into place. A pointed, non-sparkling pin pierces the can, causing the rest of its contents to pour out into the drum and the propellent.

A two-piece charcoal and activated carbon filter absorb odors and vapors from the drum. When full, dispose of it by following appropriate regulations.

Ensure that the drum and puncturing devices are electrically connected before using them. This prevents static buildup, which could cause an explosion.

By using this system, you can ensure that your spray paint cans are disposed of safely.

Also read: Why is spray paint flammable?

Why Is Aerosol or Spray Paint Can Recycling Important?

As mentioned above, some aerosol cans may be classified as hazardous waste. The RCRA requires that all recyclable materials be separated from other types of waste.

You should avoid throwing spray paint cans away because there are many reasons why they might not be able to be recycled. Following are some of the major reasons.

  • Risk of fire
  • Risk of contamination
  • Risk of environmental damage

Risk of fire

Spray paint cans have the potential to explode when exposed to heat. If the can is not properly emptied, the remaining material could create a hazard. Unless aerosol cans have been completely emptied in a safe way, they pose a risk to recycling or landfill workers.

If you’re going to recycle aerosol cans, don’t throw them in the trash. A prominent recycling company had a fire caused by an aerosol spray can. This is because of many people don’t know how to properly dispose of aerosol cans. Some people even throw them away, thinking they can be recycled.

It is very important to ensure the spray paint cans are fully emptied before recycling them.

Risk of contamination

Spray paints are often mixed with solvents and other chemicals. The solvent evaporates over time, leaving behind a sticky substance on the inside of the can.

This substance is referred to as “cokingâ€. If you try to recycle the can, coking will build up in the machine making it difficult to operate. Eventually, the machine will have to be replaced.

Risk of environmental damage

Some aerosols contain toxic substances such as cadmium, chromium, arsenic, etc. These substances are harmful if they get into the water supply.

In addition, these substances are also known to leach out of the landfills where they were placed.

Most states require special disposal methods for hazardous waste. In order to comply with these laws, you must follow proper procedures to dispose of aerosol cans correctly.

What are the benefits of recycling aerosol or spray paint cans?

There are several benefits to recycling aerosol or spray paint cans. Some of the major benefits are discussed below.

  • Protects our environment
  • Saves money
  • Preserves natural resources
  • Improves public health
  • Reduces solid waste

Protects our environment

Recycling aerosol cans reduces the amount of pollution we generate. It also helps reduce the amount of energy required to produce new products.

Saves money

When you recycle aerosol cans, you help keep costs low. By reducing the number of new cans produced, you conserve resources.

Preserves natural resources

When you recycle aerosols, you help preserve the earth’s natural resources. Steel and aluminum are the most common materials used for spray paint cans. Each year, American industry consumes approximately 3 billion aerosol cans, enough steel to produce half-a-million cars.

Improves public health

By properly recycling and disposing the spray paint or aerosol can you are protecting your family and friends from the harmful substances and chemicals.

Reduces solid waste

By recycling aerosol cans, you are reducing the amount of solid waste generated. Solid waste includes items like paper, plastic bottles, glass jars, metal cans, magazines, etc. This type of waste takes up space in landfills and causes air pollution.


Aerosol or spray paint cans are one of the most commonly disposed of items at home and work. Unfortunately, many people do not realize that spray paint cans are recyclable. They believe that spray paint cans cannot be disposed of because they contain dangerous chemicals.

However, aerosol or spray paint cans are made of steel and aluminum, both recyclable. You should always take care when throwing away these cans. Do not leave them in the trash bin or dumpster. Instead, take them to an authorized recycling center.

You can also use the aerosol cans recycling systems that are available on the market today. The system separates the cans from the rest of the garbage and then collects them for recycling.

So, this is all about how to dispose of spray paint cans. If you still have any questions, please feel free to comment down below. We will be happy to answer all your questions.


How can I get rid of spray paint cans?

The best way to get rid of spray paint or aerosol cans is to bring them to a certified recycling facility. Many companies specialize in collecting aerosol cans. They usually charge a small fee to pick up the cans.

Is it safe to throw aerosol or spray paint containers into my regular trashcan?

No, throwing aerosol cans into your regular trashcan is unsafe. When you throw aerosol cans into the trash, they may leak toxic chemicals into the soil. These chemicals can contaminate the groundwater and pollute the air.

What happens if I don’t recycle aerosol cans?

If you do not recycle aerosol cans, they end up in our landfills, where they cause problems. Landfills are areas where we store trash. Aerosol or spray paint cans contain solvents that may ignite a fire at the landfills. In addition, the gases released by the cans can cause air pollution.

Where can I find aerosol cans recycling programs?

Many places offer aerosol cans recycling services. Some of those include your local government office and recycling centers.

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