Recycling MSR IsoPro™ Fuel Canisters

 Fuel canisters are made of steel, which is recyclable as mixed metal. The valve includes parts made of plastic and rubber.
Fuel canisters are made of steel, which is recyclable as mixed metal. The valve includes parts made of plastic and rubber.

Originally Published on 10/7/2013

At MSR we get this question all the time: How do you recycle fuel canisters?

Isobutane canisters are made of painted steel and plastic valves. Technically they can be recycled as mixed metal. Unfortunately, the process is more complicated than just throwing your spent canister in a bin. Fuel canisters can only be recycled in areas where mixed metal is accepted, and they can only be processed when properly prepared beforehand. Here’s how to make your fuel canister recyclable:

  1. Make sure the canister is totally empty. You should use all the gas for cooking – it’s better to burn the hydrocarbons than release them. Of all the stoves on the market, the Reactor is probably the best at using the last drop of fuel in the can.
  2. If you think there could be some gas left you can purge it by attaching your stove, inverting it, and opening the valve. This will allow any remaining gas to leave the canister. Make sure you’re clear of any potential flame or source of sparks while doing this.
  3. Once you’re sure the canister is empty, you need to puncture it so it meets recycling requirements. You don’t need a special tool to do this – just puncture it with a can opener or a sharp object like a screwdriver or an ice axe. Don’t use a saw because it can create sparks that will ignite remaining fuel. You don’t need to remove the valve to meet mixed metal requirements.
Here are a couple tools you can use to safely puncture a used (and completely empty!) fuel canister. Screwdrivers also work well.
Here are a couple tools you can use to safely puncture a used (and completely empty!) fuel canister. Screwdrivers also work well.
 The MSR R&D lab uses this unique machine to puncture and recycle fuel canisters used in stove development projects.
The MSR R&D lab uses this unique machine to puncture and recycle fuel canisters used in stove development projects.

4. Now, deposit your canister where mixed metals are accepted.

This last step is the tricky part. Very few curbside recycling programs handle mixed metals, and even fewer recognize and recycle fuel canisters. Check your local recycling program before you put them in the bin. You can always drop them off at a metal recycling center if there’s one in your area, these places almost always handle mixed metals. If you’re not sure what to do, contact your local recycling authority for advice.

Remember, just because the canister is picked up by your curbside program doesn’t mean it will be recycled – many recyclable items are thrown away because they aren’t clearly identified. If you have any doubts, we recommend you deliver your canisters directly to a metal recycling center. That’s the best way to make sure your canisters are recycled.

Good luck, and happy recycling!

The complete line of MSR fuel canisters, including the new 16 oz. size.
The complete line of MSR fuel canisters, including the new 16 oz. size.
  • Sigit

    Hi, I’m looking for some empty cannister any size… Do you have some? Can I buy your empty cannister?

  • Of course most people won’t jump through all the hoops, and these fuel canisters will end up in the landfills. The camp stove industry needs to develop a standard for refillable fuel containers, or at least work with the recycling industry to develop greater points of acceptance of these spent canisters. The single-use standard flies in the face of a sustainable future, and we need to be aware of our impact.

    • Beerhiker

      The whisperlites have “refillable fuel canisters”. Been available for decades. I love mine!

  • Ole

    I really like the looks of 16 oz canister for car camping. Who is selling them now?

    • admin

      That is a 2014 item, so nobody has them yet. I would look for them around the New Year!

  • Pete Dahle

    What a shame that you are producing such an awesome yet unsustainable product.

    • When safety is concerned I don’t care about the sustainability, I care about function and not blowing up. MSR, Thank you for making amazing products I’m proud to own.

  • Pingback: Zero Waste Camping: The Pursuit of Wow | Wasteless Year()

  • MarkS

    Campsites in Canada have these orange recycling containers dedicated to recycling spent fuel canisters, even those heavy green Coleman things… we need to see such a system make its way into the US

  • Joe

    So, how about making canisters that are refillable? Less convenient yes, but lets keep this stuff out of land fills. I love my Whisperlite!

    • MSR team

      Hi Joe, Thanks for the question. The canisters themselves would have to be reinforced to handle constant refilling, which would make them heavier and more costly than most backpackers are willing to put up with.

    • MSR_Staff

      Hi Joe, Thanks for the question. The canisters themselves would have to be reinforced to handle constant refilling, which would make them heavier and more costly than most backpackers are willing to put up with.

      • Joe

        Thanks for the reply. It’s good to know the engineering issues. For me personally, what is keeping me from purchasing a more modern / efficient MSR stove, is the very fact that I can’t get refillable containers. If you had a refillable version available (with extra weight) for the Reactor series, I’de purchase one in a heart beat!

        Thanks for the great work / products. Keep it up!

  • Vitruvian47

    Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Recover energy are all legitimate ways to work on sustainability. Reducing or reusing waste is better so if recycling is not enough and you want to make a greater difference drink less alcohol (wine, beer, distilled spirits in bottles or cans) or milk, or juices in bottles or cans, or eating canned foods, or reading newspapers – except on line, or ordering products through the mail (cardboard boxes) or driving a car (tires)… there is much to choose from that will far exceed the number of canisters we are able to use in life:)

  • MSR_Staff

    Hi Peter, Thanks for the question. The canisters themselves would have to be reinforced to handle constant refilling, which would make them heavier and more costly than most backpackers are willing to put up with.

  • claidheamdanns

    Thank you so much for this. I have been asking around for over a year, sent from one person to another to get the answer on this. Gas canisters say not to put them in the trash, but they don’t give any guidance on how to get rid of them. Even our local propane supplier didn’t know, though they said that they frequently get this question from people. Much appreciated!

  • DSK

    This is why I keep using my very old XGK stove and Sigg fuel bottle. Reduce and reuse so I don’t have to worry about recycling!

  • Edward Villamaria

    I have a few MSR cans and was wondering how to dispose of them. Does MSR make a product like JetBoil’s CrunchIt Recycling Tool? I’d presume it will work on my MSR cans – but I’m typically brand-loyal. 🙂

    • MSR_Staff

      We don’t make any specific tools like that but any of the ones outlined in the article that you feel safe using will get the job done!

  • Kathleen

    Paint stores accept unused paint for recycling. Home Depot and Batteries and Bulbs, etc. accept used batteries and bulbs. Why doesn’t MSR arrange for proper recycling of these canisters with vendors that sell the product. There is absolutely no place (including our local hazmat collection) in my area that accepts these items even though they are empty and punctured.

    • MSR_Staff

      Unfortunately it’s up to your local municipality or county to decide what they will and will not accept, but if there is any type of mixed-metal recycling center around they can typically help you out.