University of Vermont

Recycling & Waste Management


"Sterno" Fuel Cannisters

Sternos are mostly found at catered events and are generated by University Dining Services. Sternos are the small burners placed under chafing dishes and used to heat food at a buffet or warming table.



"Sterno" has become the familiar name for the flammable gel inside the small metal can used under most chafing dishes.  An alcohol is added to get this saturated form of calcium acetate, a semi-solid, and a flammable gel forms that is much like "canned heat" products such as a "Sterno".  Sternos can be hot when extinguishing.  If you put the lids on to extinguish the flames, they can also pop violently. Sternos are a fire hazard.

Disposal at UVM

Sternos are collected at each food service kitchen.  Sternos are separated and collected by food service staff and stored in clearly marked 15-gallon containers or 5-gallon containers in the kitchens or in their restricted loading dock areas. Sterno must not be stored outside.  The storage containers must be clearly labeled because this waste is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) due to its flammability.

Final Destination

Sternos get collected by Environmental Safety staff, are consolidated and crushed into 55-gallon drums. They are then sent to an out-of-state end disposal facility for incineration.

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Last modified March 02 2011 04:36 PM

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