Aerosol cans are generally found at UVM food service
kitchens. They are also used for maintenance activities within
Physical Plant. Aerosols are used for a wide variety of materials such
as non-stick cooking sprays ("pan release"), oven cleaners,
degreasers, adhesives, cooling agents and even pesticides.
Aerosols are a compressed gas. There are four potential sources of
health hazard in regards to aerosol products: Solvent
Propellant, Active Ingredient and the Nature of Aerosol Sprays in
Most industrial aerosols contain organic solvents which give off
vapors that are dangerous if breathed for too long or in too high
concentrations. Some compressed-gas use flammable
gas as a
propellant. These are labeled “Flammable” and are
as ignitable waste under Resource Conservation Recovery Act (RCRA). The
most common propellant, butane is extremely flammable.
once-used chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) have now been withdrawn
use in aerosols because of the damage they cause to the earth's ozone
The active ingredient of an aerosol product will vary according to the
material involved. It is important to read the Material Safety Data
Sheet (MSDS) to identify the active ingredient and any hazards that may
arise from its use.
Constituents such as adhesives, cleaning agents, static eliminators
etc., may all contribute to the overall hazard of the product, as they
will be deposited on internal surfaces of the nose, throat, lungs or
The nature of the aerosol spray itself is that the spray will often
consist of very small droplets of solvent, propellant and active
ingredient, some of which can do damage by inhaling them deep
the lungs. Larger droplets will be trapped in the nose, throat and
upper part of the lung. Aerosol sprays can also cause
irritation, if they comes into contact with the eyes.
Aerosols should always be used in a well ventilated area.
Disposal at UVM
Aerosol cans are separated at all food service kitchen on UVM's campus.
Physical Plant staff store used aerosols in a secure area
prior to pickup. Aerosols are collected by
Safety staff as hazardous waste. They are then transported to the
Environmental Safety Facility, and punctured with a special tool to
additional liquid remaining inside the can. The liquid is consolidated
other flammable liquids into a 55-gallon drum for safe disposal.
The flammable liquid waste is sent to an out-of-state end
facility for incineration. The empty and punctured metal cans
are recycled as scrap metal.
[Return to Recycling
& Waste Disposal Guide]