Whether a party or a special event, helium balloons add more color and joy to the occasion, are lighter than air, and rise high. While you can buy pre-filled helium balloons from the store, there is nothing more convenient than using your helium tanks for blowing up balloons whenever you need them.
Helium tanks are recyclable. Since they are made of metal, they can be recycled with other metals by a metal recycler. However, care must be taken to ensure that the helium tanks are prepared properly before recycling. A few steps can ensure that you’re confident to drop your helium tanks at your metal or local recycling center.
In addition to helium in balloons, you can find it in MRI machines in hospitals, cryogenics, and quantum mechanics research. As helium gas is pressurized and contained in helium tanks, it is advised that you be careful in handling these tanks, as improper handling can lead to disastrous consequences that can result in personal injury and even death. With proper preparation for recycling, you can give these tanks a new life as helpful metal products.
How to Recycle Helium Tanks
Empty helium tanks can be recycled and taken in by your local recycling center. However, you will have to take a few essential steps to be sure that the helium tanks are indeed empty before giving them away for recycling. This is to ensure your safety and the safety of the sanitation workers who will handle these helium tanks during the recycling process.
We will go through the steps to understand how to properly prepare helium tanks for recycling so that you can be sure it is safe to handle.
Ensure the following items are available before you prepare your tanks for recycling,
- Flat-head Screwdriver
- Protective Gloves
- Protective Eyewear
- Permanent Marker
- Pliers (optional)
Once you’ve ensured the availability of these items, you can go ahead with the steps for recycling helium tanks.
Step 1: Open the Valve Handle
Take your helium tank to a well-ventilated area. We want to do this to have a lot of clean air so that you do not breathe in helium, if any, left in the tank as you empty the tank. Once you’re in an area with good ventilation, open the valve handle on the helium tank fully by turning it in the counter-clockwise direction until it stops.
How Long Will Helium Last If We Keep Using It?
Helium is being consumed at a rapid rate. If we continue to consume it at the levels that we currently are, we may run out of helium in 25-30 years.
Step 2: Press Down on the Tilt-Nozzle
Press down and hold the tilt-nozzle until the tank is empty. You can hear the pressure discharging from the nozzle. You can be sure that the tank is empty when you no longer feel any nozzle pressure or sound.
Step 3: Remove the Tilt-Nozzle
After you’re sure the tank is empty, you can unscrew the tilt-nozzle and remove it. You can remove the tilt-nozzle with your hand.
How Much Helium Is Exported From The United States?
The U.S. exported 83 million cubic meters of helium in 2019, and the trend continues to increase.
Step 4: Rupture the Disc on the Tank
You will have to wear safety gloves and eyewear before rupturing the disc on the shoulder of the tank. Take the flat-head screwdriver and place it on the top of the disc. Use the hammer to tap the screwdriver so that it ruptures the disc lightly. Ensure you completely open the disc and use your gloved hands to pry the disc off.
Step 5: Circle and Mark the Tank
Take the permanent marker, draw a circle around the opened disc, and write “EMPTY” near it. This will indicate to the sanitation workers who handle your tank that the tank has been emptied and has no helium gas.
Step 6: Drop at Recycling Center or Curbside Bin
You can drop the empty helium tank at your local recycling center once you’ve confirmed that they will accept it. If you have a recycling pick-up service, you can drop the empty tank in the curbside bin from where the workers can safely take and recycle the tank. If the local recycling program doesn’t accept helium tanks, you can contact the local metal recycler to recycle your metal tank.
The empty helium tanks can be recycled with other metals and be back to use again as a helpful product. If you’ve followed the steps to prepare your tanks properly, you can be rest assured that they will be recycled and be given a new life.
Is Helium Bad For The Environment?
Helium is an inert, naturally occurring gas. It doesn’t directly affect the atmosphere and is so light that it continues to rise in the atmosphere until it eventually leaches out into space.
Where You Can Recycle Helium Tanks
Regarding recycling helium tanks, they are accepted by local recycling centers and metal recyclers. Since the tanks are made of metals, they have recycling value and are readily taken in.
However, you should contact your curbside recycling program to know if they will accept your empty helium tanks. Since the tanks contain pressurized gas, like propane tanks, your recycler will want you to ensure they are open.
Local Recycling Centers
The local recycling program will accept your empty tanks. They might ask you to ensure the empty tanks before dropping them at the center or availing a pick-up facility.
Your helium tanks may be classified as hazardous household products or metal products for recycling. You can get more information from the local recycling center.
Note that your municipality’s recycling center rules might differ from others. Hence, getting to know about them from the recycling center is recommended.
If your local recycling program does not accept your helium tanks, you can take them to your local metal recyclers, who will recycle them. The metal in the helium tanks can be used with other metals in the metal recycling process.
Contact your local metal recycler to learn about metal recycling for helium tanks.
Repurposing Helium Tanks
There are many exciting options for repurposing helium tanks that you might consider to give a new purpose to the tanks.
Before you consider repurposing, see if there is a way for you to reuse the helium tanks. The store from where you’ve picked the helium tanks might have the option to refill them with helium so you can reuse them again.
If you still want to go ahead with repurposing, we’ve got some good ideas that you can take inspiration from to convert your empty helium tanks to serve another useful purpose.
DIY Halloween Pumpkin Tank
The shape of the helium tanks makes them a perfect fit to sit beside pumpkins with Halloween art on them. Whether you’re looking to create spooky and scary art on the tank or one that complements and accentuates your Halloween setup, you will not be disappointed with what you can do with an empty helium tank.
You can cut the tank to create a jack-o’-lantern and cut a little door at the back with a hinge to put in a candle. The design inspiration for your metal carving lies with you. There are many ideas, and you can pick an appropriate carving that best exemplifies what you want to achieve with the Halloween setup.
Since the helium tank can last for years, you can reuse the Halloween pumpkin tanks for each Halloween. Besides adding a new look to your Halloween, you’ll get noticed for your thoughtful creativity.
Minion Helium Tanks
You can have your army of minions watch your back. You only need empty helium tanks and a few items to create your little army. For each minion helium tank, you will need a pair of toddler shoes, two tin cans, epoxy glue, masking tape, and paint.
Some tools needed for the creation are a small grinder to cut the metal, tin snips, and a hammer. You can begin by using the grinder to cut the helium tank close to the base of its handles. This will allow you to bend the handle slightly, which will be perfect for putting on toddler shoes.
Once you have the toddler shoes on, you can place the little minion in making its shoes and use the tin cans to create its spectacles. Once you’ve found the right place to fit the goggles, use the epoxy glue to set them in place.
After this is done, use masking tape to tape the goggles. Now, you can begin to paint the body of the minion. You can sand and prime the tank before starting to paint. Bring your yellow buddy to life with paint colors. Your creativity will come to the fore here to give a finishing look to the little minion.
Now, you have a little minion. You can create a team of them or, if you love, even an army of little minions with your empty helium tanks.
You have a lot more DIY options when it comes to repurposing your helium tanks. Get some inspiration from Pinterest and begin repurposing your tanks.
Helium tanks can be recycled and repurposed as metal products with proper preparation. It is important to take the necessary steps to ensure the tanks are empty before giving them away for recycling to ensure the safety of both yourself and the sanitation workers handling the tanks.
This includes opening the valve handle, pressing down on the tilt-nozzle, removing it, rupturing the disc on the tank, circling and marking the tank as “EMPTY,” and finally dropping it off at a recycling center or curbside bin. With the right steps, we can safely recycle helium tanks and conserve the precious resource of helium.