Getting rid of an expired fire extinguisher doesn’t have to be a daunting operation.

Most fire extinguishers contain chemicals, and many of these chemicals are categorised as a hazardous waste – this means you can’t just throw them into the bin. Instead, you’ll need to dispose of them correctly, in line with Australian government regulations. Here’s some information to help you deal with your old fire extinguisher in the quickest, most sustainable and effective way possible.

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Fire extinguisher lifespan

With the right care, fire extinguishers can last between 10 and 12 years. After this time, they may lose pressure and become weaker or incapable of putting out a fire.

Your maintenance program

Your technician will let you know when it’s time to replace your extinguisher as part of your ongoing, scheduled maintenance program. If they find that your extinguisher has expired, the technician may offer to dispose of it for you, either as part of your service agreement or at a small fee.

Signs you need a new extinguisher

If you notice any of the below signs, it’s probably time to replace your fire extinguisher:

  • The pin is missing or damaged
  • The anti-tamper seal is broken
  • The pressure needle has left the green zone
  • The shell is broken or fails the hydrostatic test
  • The nozzle is cracked, blocked or ripped
  • The label or instructions have been compromised
  • The handle is wobbly
  • The fire extinguisher is very old

Fire extinguishers can contain hazardous waste

Depending on its type and class, your extinguisher could be filled with harmful chemicals, which is why we recommend taking your equipment to a professional drop off centre or leaving it to be removed by a qualified technician. Here’s a breakdown on the different types of fire extinguishers and how they’re disposed of:

Water fire extinguishers

  • Used on class A fires typically involving general, non-hazardous materials like wood, plastic and paper
  • Are among the safest to dispose of as they simply contain water
  • Once the water has been safely discharged, the canister becomes recyclable scrap metal. Still, it’s essential to ensure the extinguisher is discharged safely to avoid hazard.

ABE fire extinguishers

  • Used on class A, B & E fires, which typically involve things such as wood, paper, petrol and electrical cables.
  • Contains a chemical powder called monoammonium phosphate, which should be discharged by a professional to avoid danger of contamination.

BE fire extinguishers

  • Used on class B & E fires that commonly take place in in homes, offices and factories
  • These usually contain sodium bicarbonate or potassium bicarbonate which should be discharged by a professional to avoid danger of contamination.

Carbon Dioxide fire extinguishers

  • Used on class E fires, which involve electrical equipment
  • Contain a non-conductive and non-corrosive extinguishing agent, which minimises the damage to electrical equipment
  • Can be dangerous to discharge, especially if not fitted with a frost-free horn. Discharge should be left to a professional, as pipe and horn must be properly fitted – failure to do so can result in strong and dangerous recoil resulting from high pressure.

Foam fire extinguishers

  • Used on class A & B fires which typically contain wood, paper, plastic, petrol or paint
  • Contains aqueous film foaming foam, which is toxic and shouldn’t be discharged near ground or rainwater drains.

Wet Chemical fire extinguishers

  • Used on A & F fires, typically sparked by wood, plastic, paper and cooking oils or fats
  • Contain a potassium solution which is considered a hazardous material. 

Learn more about the five fire extinguisher classes in Australia

Check out our top four safety tips for using a fire extinguisher

Need more information about dealing with your expired fire extinguisher? Equipment Online is here to help. Our team of highly-qualified experts will help find the most affordable and most well-suited solution for you, no matter how unique your requirements may be. Contact us today for more information.

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