The Problem

One pound disposable propane gas cylinders (cylinders) power equipment used for camping, cooking, landscaping, heating, and a variety of other applications. There are 30 million cylinders sold in the U.S. each year and an estimate over four million in California alone. Once used, consumers must dispose of these cylinders and often improperly and at significant cost to local governments and parks. When consumers purchase a cylinder, 80 percent of the cost is actually for the cylinder (which is the packaging) and 20 percent is for the gas.

Cylinders are difficult to recycle and once discarded cannot be presumed to be empty. Even a small amount of propane gas under pressure is dangerous and presents a risk to sanitation workers.  Typically “empty cylinders” are not allowed in mixed recycling bins and are collected separately at parks, household hazardous waste facilities, and transfer stations and shipped for processing to a facility that handles cylinder evacuation. Very rarely, as in the case of Santa Cruz County, a cylinder that is completely empty can be placed in the curbside mixed recycling cart so it is important to check with your local waste hauler for direction. It is expensive to remove remaining gas and ensure metals are recycled and costs about $1.25 to recycle each cylinder when they cost around $4.50 to buy one.

Refilling disposable one pound cylinders is illegal. On November 28, 2014, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) issued a safety alert, “Prohibited Refilling of DOT 39 Specification Cylinders” regarding refilling disposable cylinders. The alert strongly recommends that the general public not refill DOT 39 cylinders, and outlines fines. Additional information on California and Federal laws and regulations pertaining to the refill of disposable cylinders can be found here.


Disposable Cylinder Facts

  • In 2014, Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park spent $2,656 and shipped 2,125 cylinders for proper handling and recycling.
  • According to the City of Sunnyvale between 2010 – 2013 more than 16,000 cylinders were processed through the SMaRT Station (where the trash for Sunnyvale, Mountain View and Palo Alto is processed before being landfilled), at a cost of over $144,000 to the cities for their proper disposal. SMaRT Station Gas Cylinder Fact Sheet.

Supporting Cylinder Stewardship



Click on the image for the ReFuel Your Fun website


Help by following the ReFuel Your Fun Facebook


There are two manufacturers that redesigned the valves and now offer refillable one pound cylinders: Flame King and Manchester Tank. In addition, Kamps Propane stores are now selling and exchanging the Little Kamper refillable gas cylinders and Pick Up Propane locations will be exchanging the refillables beginning Spring 2015. These refillable cylinders save customers an average of $320 over their 12-year life span assuming a cylinder is reused 10 times a year either through refilling or an exchange program.

Please ask retailers in your community to sell or provide refill or exchange services. Click here for a sample letter.

Meet the Little Kamper - Refillable Propane Cylinders from Kamps Propane 2Pictured – A little camper seen with the Little Kamper, Kamps Propane Website

ManchesterTank_ImplementsPictured – Refillable one pound cylinders powering landscaping equipment

Little Kamper Tailgating at the 2014 Foster Farms Bowl WEB

Pictured – Tailgater with the Little Kamper, Kamps Propane

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One Response to Gas Cylinders

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