Gas Cylinders

Gas cylinders - handled with care

Posted on 29 November 2018.

Collecting, removing and treating the contents of compressed gas cylinders is the job of one of Veolia’s English plants. A real step forward in the treatment of this hazardous waste.

Several million gas cylinders are sold to individual homes and businesses every year. Usually for domestic use such as heating, hot water and cooking. But at the end of their life, what happens to these empty gas cylinders?

Not knowing what to do with them, and lacking information or local collection points, they are often abandoned in the countryside.

It’s a serious problem given that this waste is classified as hazardous. The cylinders not only contain toxic residues that can seriously pollute the environment but in addition the very high pressure in the bottles requires very strict storage, handling and processing conditions, with the potential risk being a danger to the public.

In the United Kingdom, Waste Industry Safety and Health has sounded the alarm given the increase in the number of accidents caused by these bottles igniting or exploding. In 2016, a bottle exploded and caused the death of an employee in an English recycling facility.

To prevent such tragedies from occurring, a Veolia waste treatment plant across the Channel has developed a special facility dedicated to recycling used gas cylinders. The goal is to collect this hazardous waste and encourage its reuse and / or safe recycling.


A complete cycle

The plant – in England’s Midlands – has introduced a rigorous process. To begin with, a national collection service has been set up: a dedicated fleet of vehicles transports the gas cylinders to the facility. Bottles are collected from a range of sources: industry, healthcare facilities, universities and recycling centers.

Once at the facility the gas cylinders are carefully sorted. Some may contain special gases, which require specific handling and disposal processes to prevent any harmful impact on the environment. The contents of every cylinder are precisely identified and carefully removed in a highly controlled environment. Depending on the nature of these gases they are either treated and incinerated, or destroyed safely.Finally, the empty cylinders are returned to the original supplier for reuse. But if they are in poor condition, they can be recycled since their main component is steel. A "made in UK" example of applying the recycling and reuse principles of the circular economy! Kevin Hurst, a member of Veolia UKs Management Board, emphasizes that "As a complete recycling and recovery solution this new service represents a significant step forward for the treatment of pressurized gas cylinders. This in turn will help our customers safely deal with unwanted cylinders, and meet regulatory and environmental requirements."

And what about France?
Since 2015 the Grenelle 2 law requires those selling gas cylinders to recover them for recycling after use.