Originally developed to pressurize insect sprays for agricultural use, today, everything from paint to hair products to cheese can come in aerosol cans! Some spray cans may be poisonous and/or flammable, but all aerosols are pressurized, making them potentially explosive hazardous waste.
Commonly used products include:
- oven cleaner
- insect spray
- spray paint
- air freshener spray
- hair spray
- hair mousse
- shaving cream
- spray foam insulation
Why it matters
Although the ozone depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) once contained in aerosols have been banned internationally since 1978, today’s aerosols contain a number of pressurized gases that can damage the environment. For instance, hydrocarbons contribute to climate change and volatile organic compounds contribute to air pollution. Plus, many aerosol products contain harmful chemicals that vaporize when sprayed into the air and may be inhaled or ingested. Their contents are toxic and flammable, and the cans themselves are also hazardous because contents are under pressure and capable of explosion if heated or otherwise mishandled.
What you can do
1. Choose safer alternatives
When it comes to aerosol products, there are plenty of pump spray and non-aerosol versions that are better for the environment and better for you.
- Skip the Scents. Air Fresheners mask odours, often by interfering with your ability to smell. Keep it fresh – open a window or simmer some orange slices and spices on the stove!
- Non-toxic tricks. Dirty oven? Try using a baking soda paste overnight to lift baked-on grime.
- Cheese please? Go for the hard stuff. Does cheese really belong in a can?
- Bug off. Check out the outdoor living section for tips on keeping bugs at bay.
2. Dispose of it properly
Always err on the side of caution – do not put aerosols (full or empty) in your regular garbage. Remember, aerosol cans are pressurized and can explode if exposed to high heat or crushed.
Regional waste management authorities offer drop-offs and collection events that accept aerosol products (including empty aerosol cans) as well as other hazardous products from your home. Find your nearest drop-off site.