Recently, a University sanitation worker was operating a trash compactor on campus. Unbeknownst to the operator, someone had disposed of a closed helium balloon tank.
Upon compaction, the cylinder over-pressurized and burst, spraying sharp metal pieces across the area. Luckily, the worker was not injured.
Helium balloon kits like these are available from many retailers and can be an attractive option when hosting an event or summer cookout. However, they are compressed gas cylinders under significant pressure and users are responsible for understanding the hazards they present, and for following manufacturer’s instructions for safe handling and disposal.
Besides the environmental impact of the accidental or intentional release of helium balloons, disposal of these tanks can be problematic. THEY SHOULD NEVER BE DISPOSED OF IN THE TRASH.
If helium balloons are a necessity for your event, consider ordering them pre-inflated rather than purchasing a tank. If a tank must be purchased, try to find a retailer that will allow you to return the tank.
If neither of those options are feasible, follow the manufacturers’ instructions on proper disposal. This will most likely involve emptying the tank, removing the stem or rupturing a disk on the tank to show that it is no longer pressurized and then recycling with a scrap steel recycler. Not all recyclers will take the empty cylinders, however, even if they’ve been relieved of pressure through a rupture disc or removal of the stem, and disposal may then incur a fee.