When we return to camp, cold, dry food doesn’t cut it. We prefer a hot meal. But my concerns for unnecessary waste and the environment always had me worried about what to do with the fuel canisters from my camp stove.
In the 90s, my uncle and I used a couple of different camp stoves, that at the time the only thing to do with the canisters once they were spent was sit on a shelf in his garage for a year before his wife, my aunt, made him clean them out and put them in the trash. There must have been a couple dozen of them.
Nobody knew what to do with spent fuel canisters at the time. Recyclers that could recycle steel were worried about excess fuel and true recycling for such products was not available everywhere. Today, however, the fuel for Primus, MSR, Soto, Snow Peak, Coleman and other canister fuel camp stoves can be recycled more easily because the knowledge of the canisters (both to hikers and climbers as well as recycling facilities) has been raised.
When the canister is spent, take some additional time to be sure to burn off any little bit of remaining gas. Then unscrew the canister and puncture it. Backpacker magazine said you can use a rock to just smash it (that ought to do the trick!) but for a more elegant approach there are tools available, such as the Green Key for Coleman canisters.
I now prefer a white gas stove, like the Whisperlite products. The fuel is liquid and is easily refillable, though the amount of work is double or triple of using a canister, because of the priming of the fuel and timing of lighting. The green advantage is that the canister for white gas stoves are reusable and the fuel comes in large containers, meaning less waste. In addition, the aluminum cans the white gas comes in looks like a can of turpentine, which the local recycling facility is familiar with.
If you need to find a recycling facility near you, go to Earth911.com and type in either “steel” or “aluminum” depending on the canisters you are using and your zip code.
Lastly, here are some informative links on recycling and the canister versus liquid fuel stoves:
How to Recycle Spent Fuel Canisters
Canister vs. White Gas
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