Here’s Something You Can do with Old Fuel Canisters

How to recycle them yourself or at MSR’s Seattle shop

Empty isobutane fuel canisters—you know, the little dome-shaped fuel cans used by backpacking stoves—are a blessed joy in the backcountry, but what do you do when they’re empty? Recycle them at home? That can be harder than it seems depending on where you live—more on that in a minute. Accumulate a massive tower of empties in the garage? Throw them in the garbage?

If you live in or near Seattle, we have good news. MSR’s Seattle Repair Shop will now accept your empty fuel cans, regardless of manufacturer, recycle them for you, and give you a 20 percent discount on a purchase of new fuel canisters for your trouble. The shop is located at 130 South Dakota Street, Seattle, WA 98134.

They aren’t allowed to accept fuel canisters by mail, so it’s in person-only.

“We have been working to educate customers on how to safely and properly recycle fuel canisters for decades,” said Iris Diligencia, lead repair technician, MSR Repair Shop. “This recycling initiative creates an easy option solution for our customers and furthers our efforts to reduce landfill waste.”

If you don’t live anywhere near MSR’s Seattle location you can most likely take steps to recycle empty fuel canisters through your local recycling service. Here’s a list of steps:

• Make sure canister is empty of fuel. Burning it all is best, but there are tools, like the Jetboil Crunchit that help release the last little bit of fuel.

• Puncture the canister. Screwdriver, hammer, ice axe, sharp rock, icepick, whatever you like. The little Jetboil tool will puncture a can too.

• Find out where to recycle mixed metals, drop the empty and punctured can off there, and you’re all done. Some towns will accept these canisters in the regular curbside recycling run, so check your local rules and regs.


Showing 10 comments
  • Chuck Castleton

    So remind me again why white gas is such a bad idea? Lighter, cheaper, burns hotter, and I can refill my bottle myself so I don’t have to worry about carrying an extra canister because the first one is only part full. A gallon can lasts a season or 2 at least, and the empty is easily recyclable.

    • The Woodsman

      Or better yet alcohol. More widely available than an other fuel. Trangia it make your own for a few bucks.

    • gnarlydog

      My take: liquid fuel stoves do need maintenance way more than butane ones. I neglected my MSR Whisperlite for a couple of years and fuel started to leak while I was cooking…. not funny! Cooking with gas (the gassy type, not liquid) requires no priming, never dirties the pots and pretty much no flare ups. Ah, and when I turn the dial the flame changes intensity, with no delay… so no more guessing/futzing. YMMV

    • jim

      and in a pinch you can use the a half thimble full of gas to start a fire…had to do that once in a snowstorm it doesn’t take much

    • Athina

      Spills and leaks. That’s the biggest concern. White gas is more efficient in cold weather, more economical, more environmentally conscious.

  • Stephen Castle

    For 6 bucks (Can/US) you can get one of these :

  • Chris

    I add one more step to recycling my cans – I crush it at least partially, in the field with a rock or at home with a hammer. This way, the hard worker manually sorting at the recycling center sees that the can cannot possibly still be under pressure and send it to scrap metal instead of pulling it out of the system. I worry that just puncturing the can may be missed and the recycling won’t happen.

    • Erik

      …more sledge hammer work…yaaaas!

  • jim

    white gas for long trips isobutane for short trips.

    for white gas/kerosene/diesel/unleaded gas etc…. i still use my MSR XGK II that i bought in 1984. it works perfectly. i did have to buy a new pump about 15 years ago…

  • DanO

    Sierra Zip Stove for the win!! mine has lasted 24 years now, and still going strong. I never fail to find some type of fuel to burn in it, at least in the places I go to.

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