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LOWELL - It's the Fourth of July holiday week and, all over America, gas grills will be fired up for backyard barbecues.
But before flipping that first burger, consumers should know how to handle their propane tank when it's empty.
UMass Lowell's Product Stewardship Institute has issued some guidelines for proper use and disposal of small propane tanks - an estimated 60 million of which are owned nationwide.
The recommendations include:
Re-use your tank. Empty propane tanks can be refilled while you wait at gas stations and other locations. Some refillers will take back old tanks for a fee, or fit them with a protective valve. Twenty-seven states have adopted a fire protection code that requires all new 20-pound tanks to be equipped with overfill protection devices, designed to maintain some expansion room for the propane gas.
Swap your tank. Tank exchange outlets swap empty tanks for pre-filled ones. Consumers pay for the service and the gas, and may obtain a valve upgrade. Mass merchandisers, hardware chains, and grocery and convenience stores often provide tank exchange services.
Recycle your tank. Municipal recycling may be an option. Some communities have recycling or household hazardous waste drop-off centers that send unusable tanks to a tank refurbisher or scrap metal dealer.
Additional information on propane tank recycling is available by visiting the website, www.earth911.org or checking local Yellow Pages under "Gas-Propane."
UMass Lowell's Product Stewardship Institute, part of the Lowell Center for Sustainable Production, developed the propane tank recommendations at a recent "summit" meeting of propane tank manufacturers, gas suppliers, retailers, recyclers, and government officials.
The institute assists state and local government agencies in establishing cooperative agreements with industry that reduce the health and environmental impacts from consumer products. It works with environmental groups, business groups, academic institutions, the federal government and related organizations to achieve its goals.