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How To Dispose of Gasoline Properly

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Author: ACTenviro
Date: June 4, 2024

Gasoline is a valuable substance; it’s difficult to imagine a world without being fueled by gasoline. However, introducing unused gasoline that isn’t combusted can endanger the environment and public health. 

Gasoline is highly flammable and toxic to living organisms. Uncontrolled burning produces considerable carbon monoxide and soot, which could pollute the air. Liquid gasoline can seep into the ground and contaminate groundwater, a major potable water source

This article will guide you on how to dispose of old gas properly. With serious environmental, health, and legal repercussions in mind, gasoline disposal should be done according to federal or state regulations to ensure public and environmental safety. 

How to Dispose of Old Gas Properly?

When used, gasoline combusts right away. So is there such a thing as waste gasoline? Yes, there is.

That unused gasoline stored for months in vehicles, lawnmowers, and other fuel-powered equipment can degrade and become a pollutant. Extra gasoline that is stored in containers in case of emergencies may be unused for months or even years. That old junk car sitting on your lawn may have old fuel in the tank. 

This stale fuel can leak out. The toxic vapors may also permeate out of these tanks and containers, causing a health and environmental hazard.

Here are ways to dispose of gasoline correctly.

  • Check if the gasoline is old or contaminated. Pour some of the fuel into a clear glass container. In another container, pour some fresh gasoline; this will be your comparison. 

When you poured the fuel in question, did you notice any sour smell? Yes? Then that gasoline is most likely to be stale.

Check the containers. If the old gasoline is noticeably darker than the fresh one, it has most likely aged to the point of being unusable. Can you see particles of rust, dirt, and sediments floating around or settling on the bottom of the container? If so, the gasoline is contaminated and should not be reused.

  • What to do with old gas? Well, you can still use old (but not contaminated) gasoline. On its own, it won't have enough combustibility to burn and get an internal combustion engine running. However, by filling the rest of the tank with fresh gasoline, you start the engine and burn the old gasoline away. The old gas will dilute the fresh fuel somewhat, but the performance of the combustible engine won’t be hampered significantly. You should use more of the fresh gasoline than the old one. 

An important note though: don’t use old gasoline on modern cars. Their engines have been computer-calibrated with precision, and using old fuel can compromise that calibration. Rather, use the old fuel in machines such as your lawnmower, weed eater, or snowblower.

  • If the old gas is unusable, you need to dispose of it correctly. Make sure the area where you’re going to dispose of the gasoline is safe and secure. It should be well-ventilated, and there should be no sources of heat, static electricity, or open flame nearby. You don't want to blast yourself to smithereens and send the house on fire, do you?
  • Use a funnel and carefully transfer the old or contaminated gasoline from its present container to a government-approved one. "What container can I put my old gas in?" you might ask. The container should be certified specifically for holding gasoline; ordinary plastic jugs or glass jars should not be used. Government-approved and certified containers are available in 5-gallon capacities, and you can purchase them in gas stations or automotive centers.

    You can also purchase them from hazardous waste disposal specialists such as ACTenviro. The company provides containers, spill containments, and waste solutions.
  • Pour the old gasoline slowly to prevent splashing or spilling. Keep your face away as far as you can from the sprout and wear a face mask---a respirator is even better. This will minimize the amount of gasoline vapor you inhale. After you finish pouring the old gasoline, close the container tightly. You can use the container multiple times until it is 95% full. Don’t fill it to the brim to allow space for fumes.
  • Store the container in a cool, dry place that is far away from children, pets, and heat sources. Don’t leave the container outdoors because outside elements can deteriorate that container.
  • When it’s time to dispose of the contents, put the container upright in a second receptacle such as a large plastic bin or rubber cooler. The second receptacle is a safety net in case the gasoline container topples over or suffers a leak.
  • Where to get rid of old gas? In a large city, you have several options:

    - Recycling centers – many municipal recycling centers offer gasoline recycling and disposal. Some have schedules for gasoline recycling. Contact your local government or the recycling plants themselves for specifics.

    - Hazardous waste disposal facility – these facilities do not repurpose or recycle old gasoline. Instead, they treat old gasoline so it can be discarded safely and properly. You might want to call ahead for disposal schedules. Also, you may need to pay a certain amount for hazardous waste disposal of gasoline.

    - Disposal specialists – services providers such as ACTenviro provide universal waste processing services. They have specialists, equipment, and facilities that allow them to collect and dispose of your old gasoline properly. Their teams are constantly trained and certified by professional waste disposal bodies to ensure that they dispose of your gasoline in a safe, secure, and hassle-free way.

    - Community collection events – local government departments, non-government units, businesses, and organizations often hold recycling events. They are held to encourage people to recycle their stuff. Check with the organizers of these events if anyone accepts old gasoline for recycling. You can also check out service providers like ACTenviro who offer various recycling services.

    - Local fire department – fire departments are willing to dispose of old gasoline safely.

    - Auto repair shops and garages – auto repair shops and DIY garages know what to do with old gas. They buy and accept old gasoline for repurposing. They can use old gasoline as an engine block cleaner, tractor fuel, fuel for waste oil heaters, and more. They also take care of disposing of the gas and keeping the container for their own use.
  • Never throw gasoline along with the municipal trash. Don’t pour waste gasoline down the drain.

Dangers of Improper Gasoline Disposal

2 gallons of gasoline stored inside house

Hazardous waste disposal of gasoline starts with you. It’s important to follow the steps mentioned above to reduce the hazards of improper gasoline disposal.

  • Gasoline, even if it’s stale and old, is extremely flammable. Handling gasoline near heat sources, open fires, or sources of ignition is dangerous. In addition, since gasoline vapor mixes and spreads with air, gasoline-related fires can spread very quickly.
  • Gasoline vapor is toxic. Inhaling vapors while pouring the gasoline into another container can lead to headaches, dizziness, shortness of breath, intoxication, and euphoria. Prolonged exposure can cause serious respiratory problems. In impoverished communities, gasoline, being easily accessible, has become a common substance for abuse and addiction.
  • It’s unlikely that one may ingest gasoline while disposing of it, but it can happen. Gasoline is toxic and can damage internal organs when ingested in large amounts. It can also damage the eyes through eye contact.
  • Skin contact with old gasoline can cause irritation and, at least, a burning sensation.
  • Gasoline and its additives are considered carcinogenic, meaning they have the potential to cause cancer.
  • Disposing of gasoline with regular trash creates a potential fire hazard. The fuel could ignite under the right conditions.
  • Irresponsibly disposing of gasoline down the drain contaminates the municipal water system. A gallon of gasoline can contaminate as much as 750,000 gallons of water.
  • Improperly disposed of gasoline can cause environmental problems. Waste fuel can seep into the soil and contaminate groundwater. Flora that absorb gasoline through the soil or fauna that ingests it will most likely die or be struck with a serious ailment.

Gasoline Disposal Regulations

According to the US federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), gasoline is classified as a “characteristic hazardous waste” because it exhibits two main characteristics:

  • Ignitability – the propensity of a material to easily catch fire, combust, or explode even at ambient temperatures
  • Toxicity – the propensity of a material to cause organ damage, injury, or death when an organism ingests it or is exposed to it.

In the US, the disposal, management, and handling of hazardous wastes such as gasoline are regulated by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). The EPA is the enforcing arm of RCRA regulations. 

Finally, RCRA often requires generators of hazardous wastes to track the life cycle of hazardous waste, from its manufacture to its final disposal, commonly called “cradle to grave” requirements. This record allows the EPA to lessen the amount of illegally disposed hazardous waste.

Gasoline Disposal Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions regarding hazardous waste disposal of gasoline.

How to dispose of old gas?

Pour old gasoline into a government-approved and certified gasoline container. Fill up to 95% to make room for the vapors. Seal the container tightly and deliver it to the recycling center, hazardous waste disposal facility, auto shop, and other facilities that repurpose, treat, or dispose of old gasoline.

Is gasoline a hazardous waste?

Under the RCRA, gasoline is considered a characteristic hazardous waste because it exhibits two characteristics: ignitability and toxicity. Thus, hazardous waste disposal of gasoline should be disposed of following RCRA regulations.

Can you dump gas on the ground?

No. The gasoline permeates through the soil and may contaminate the water table below.

How long does gasoline stay in the soil?

Due to the loose nature of the soil, gasoline can rapidly penetrate the soil layer and can persist in the soil or sediment layer for quite some time although the exact duration is unknown as of this time. However, we could find no recent study or research to determine how long the substance stays in the soil.

What do you do if you spill gas on the ground?

If you accidentally spill a small amount of gasoline on the hard, impermeable ground such as your garage floor, use sawdust, rags, or paper to absorb the spill. Put these in a plastic bag and don’t throw it together with the household trash. 

If you accidentally spilled gasoline on the soil, dig out the soil---around 1 foot deep---around the spilled area. Put the soil in a plastic bag and prepare it for hazardous waste collection.

Is gasoline still flammable after it dries?

It depends. If the vapor remains, there is a potential that the gas may ignite if there are heat sources nearby. But if the gas has completely dissipated, then the chances of spontaneous combustion are negligible.

Conclusion

Gasoline is a valuable commodity, and it makes many of the world’s machines run. While it's common knowledge that using fossil fuels is not good for the environment, it’s difficult to convince the world to stop the production and usage of gasoline pending the development of an equally effective alternative fuel source.

While gasoline is a useful fuel, it’s also a dangerous chemical when not handled with care. When it comes to hazardous waste disposal of gasoline, we should understand this fuel’s dangers, stick to safety procedures on how to dispose of old gas, and follow the regulations to ensure safe and secure disposal.

ALL BRANCH LOCATIONS

*ACTenviro has National service and consulting capabilities across the US

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