June 11, 2016

How To Dispose Of Expired Bear Spray

With the recent upsurge in the popularity of bear spray, much has been written about its benefits and its correct usage, and plenty of research data is available about its efficacy, however, one thing I couldn’t help but notice was that there was relatively scant information about how to dispose of bear spray properly.

Bear mace is an aerosol based spray product with OC and CRCs as its core ingredients – overtime, the aerosol propellant can leak out, causing the product to lose its ability to cover its labelled distance – hence, it gets expired.

Bear deterrent is a hazardous material when it hasn’t expired, and can become a ticking time bomb past its expiry; you never know when its sealant is going to fail and fiery hot bear deterrent will spread to the surroundings, causing serious loss and trauma. An even more frightening possibility is that you mistakenly use it in a bear encounter – the outcome of such a scenario could be exceedingly grisly (no pun intended).

So dispose of it you must, only problem is that you can’t just get rid of it like any other odd product, since it contains hazardous materials (OC and CRCs).​ Make sure to restock.

After being asked by numerous colleagues about the proper way to deal with an expired bear spray can, I’ve put together this guide to help everyone who is faced with this situation.

What You’ll Need:

Approach A

To get rid of expired bear spray, you’ll need to completely empty the can, for which you’ll need the following:

Approach B

Alternatively, if you feel that emptying the can yourself is too much of a hassle, you could always lug it to your city’s landfill where they would get it off your hands for a small fee or possibly even for free.

Go through the rules for disposal at your local facility, and be sure to transport the expired can securely in the trunk of your car, or in any other place where it is well ventilated, since the seal holding the stuff in may have gotten damaged overtime, resulting in leakage. Additionally, you will need the following:​

  • A well ventilated, isolated clearing
  • Windless conditions / a position upwind of the spray direction
  • Cleansing fluid in a bowl, and some wipes, just in case
  • The original cap of the spray canister, fit tightly on it.
  • If the product is leaking, an air-tight plastic container.

I would personally recommend opting for Approach A, since besides eliminating the hassle of transporting a potentially leaky hazardous product, you could use it as an opportunity to train colleagues or family members about the correct use of bear deterrent, in a hands-on manner, without having to spend extra dollars – killing two birds with one stone, so to speak.

Step by Step Instructions

Before we begin, I would like to get a couple of things out of the way:

  • Don’t dispose of bear spray in fire: As you may already know, aerosol propellants can be highly flammable, and can explode when exposed to heat. Doing this is a capitally bad idea for a product that contains substances which make chilli peppers hot.
  • Don’t use it as a seasoning on steaks: While derived from chilli peppers, this stuff is no substitute for chili flavoring – symptoms to its exposure include tearing / closing off the eyes, temporary blindness, labored breathing and extreme burning sensations.

While both the recommendations made above might seem painfully obvious to you, I found people in wildlife survival forums actually recommending them, on multiple occasions! Whether they were joking, or just plain foolhardy is beyond me, but I felt it necessary to inform my readers, just in case.

  • Get ready: As mentioned in the requirements, get to a clear, well-ventilated area, preferably with minimal wind. In case there is a wind blowing, make sure you stand upwind of the spray stream, so as not to get it in your eyes when it catches the wind. Ensure that no animal or human is in the line of the spray stream.

Standing upwind: be sure to stand upwind

Pro Tip: Upwind vs. Downwind – What’s The Difference?

I briefly explain the difference between these terms here because it confused me quite a bit initially, when most guides advised users to spray from an upwind direction and left it at that.

Put simply, being upwind means being with the wind i.e. the wind will take the spray away from you. Intuitively, being downwind means facing the wind - you would catch a healthy dose of bear mace smack in your face, should you spray it in this manner!​

  • Start spraying: Press the valve on the canister and empty its contents out, until no further pressure remains – it is up to you whether you spray it into the air in front of you (so that it lands a good distance away from you), or at the ground (relatively) near you. In case you go for the latter though, make sure that the region you spray on is not frequently walked on by humans / trod on by animals.
  • Dispose of the empty canister(s): Place the empty aerosol can(s) with your regular garbage, from where the garbage man will collect it. I would also suggest inquiring from the city waste pickup about any special protocols that need to be observed when getting rid of aerosol canisters, although normally, there is no such need.
  • In case you get sprayed on: During the disposal process, if you accidentally get some bear deterrent on your clothes / face / skin, do not panic. Leave the area of incident, remove the contaminated clothes, rinse the affected area with a cleansing solution such as dish soap mixed with water, or better yet, a ‘no tears’ baby shampoo solution.

Conclusion

I’ve tried to pack in everything I could find on the subject into this guide, and hope that you find it instructive and enjoyable. You may not agree with the approach I recommend – there may well be a factor that makes Approach B more feasible in your case, but you can’t deny that getting rid of expired bear spray should be a priority for everyone, to ensure the safety of themselves, their loved ones and their property.

If you have any further query / feedback regarding the correct disposal of expired bear repellent, feel free to leave it in the comments section, where I’ll do my best to entertain it – and do share this guide with any friends who might be wondering if it’s alright to burn an expired bear spray can!

About the author

Gus Clark

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