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JetBoil Crunchit: Iso-Butane Canister Disposal and Recycling

Used Isobutane Canisters

Here is a problem that has been vexing me for a long time – safe isobutane canister disposal and recycling.

The recommended way to dispose of a used canister is to vent all of the remaining gas in it and punch a whole through the sidewall using a screwdriver. After that’s done, you can safely put it into a recycling container. You can also recycle metals or items containing metal that you don’t need anymore.

Sounds easy, but I’ve always been hesitant to do it (which is why I still have all of these canisters), for fear of the canister going off like a grenade because it still holds residual gas.

I’ve given this issue a surprising amount of thought – and had hoped a major retailer like REI would have spearheaded the cause for gas canister recycling and encouraged customers to turn in used ones. While the recycling program itself would have lost money, it would have brought customers back into the store, which is the holy grail of any store-based retailer.

But, it looks like stove manufacturer JetBoil has beaten everyone to the “punch.” They’ve announced a new tool called the JetBoil CrunchIt which safely vents unused gas canister fuel and punches a hole in the gas canister so that they can be recycled. The CrunchIt is compatible with canisters from other manufacturers that use a standard threaded stove-canister attachment system, and even doubles as a bottle opener!

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  1. Very neat, and rather safer than the usual screwdriver and hammer approach..

  2. Why has it taken such a long time for anyone to come up with this? Thanks for sharing. I'll get one a s soon as they are available in the UK.

  3. It does seem rather simple doesn't it. I guess no one was thinking about recycling until now. I guess it just took the engineers (founders) at Jetboil to figure out a simple solution.

  4. I'll save you $9. Buy the old style church key (a.k.a. bottle opener with the pointy can opener tip). Anchor the opener so the point is on the side of the can and slowly pierce the side.

  5. First off you need some basic science education so you'll stop believing tales made up to scare 8 year old kids, then get a sickle type can opener like I have on my victornox and go outside and make a bunch of vertical slashes levering it off the bottom rim, let it air out a few minutes then toss it in with your steel cans for recycling.

  6. 1)Connect the spent canister to your stove.

    2)Open the valve on your stove to "full" but do not light it.

    3)Go have a cup of tea.

    4)Once finished with your tea take a hand opener and pierce the side of the canister while leaving the valve of the stove open.

    5)Remove the spent/pierced canister and recycle it.

  7. basic science education ?

    OK, let's start with the fire triangle

    Fuel – Oxygen – Ignition Energy

    residual fuel in canister – our atmosphere – hammer or screwdriver causing a spark

    Certain types of can openers, like the kind I used to use to open pineapple juice cans, allow the canister to be punctured in a slow and controlled manner thereby limiting the potential for a spark.

    So, I disagree with the opinion that a person reluctant to use a hammer and screwdriver to puncture a fuel canister is uneducated or suspicious

  8. I genuinely thought this was a great product idea and tool. It is an issue I've been concerned with. I can't help that you guys all went to MIT and have no fear.

  9. BTW, I watched the video and I want to go camping with Briana.

  10. That tool is massivly over-engineered and too slow to use. Use a puncturing can opener, the church key if you are at home, your Scout knife if you are on the trail.

    This is much easier with PowerMax canisters, because they are aluminum. Coleman provided a "green key" to poke the hole, after which they are recyclable aluminum.

  11. She's been following this post and just tweeted me about you. Said you sounded "kind and rational." I didn't tell her about the rug on your back.

  12. A "fire triangle" isn't a "grenade triangle" and without bothering with the mathematics and the ridiculous odds of getting the proper explosive ratio of air to butane inside a canister at atmospheric pressure, such an explosion isn't going produce enough energy to compare to a good fart.

    But science aside when I was a kid I used to play with the old butane lighters that you could tweak to make a 6 inch flame and along with friends I'd fill my mouth with butane and puff out nice fireballs so I'm fairly immune to scary stories about the stuff.

  13. Some people have good luck. Not me. If there was a chance that the canister would turn into a nice firebomb 1 out of every 1 million times you whacked it with a hammer and screwdriver… I'd be the one. Thank you Jetboil!

  14. lostalot, we will have to agree to disagree?

    Another canister stove safety note: Be conservative when using a wind screen with a canister stove.

    If you can not touch the canister while it is operation because the canister is too hot, you have a potentially dangerous situation.

    The safest wind screens I have seen are positioned above the canister to reflect the heat from the flame back at the pot but don't reflect that heat towards the canister. The canister itself is not shielded when using the wind screens.

    Looking forward to breaking out the SVEA very soon.

  15. This is something that has bothered me for awhile. I use an MSR Pocket Rocket stove with these single-use (non-refillable) cans. I love the stove, but I hate the idea of pitching the can when it may still have gas, and it would be nice to be able to recycle it. That's a lot of metal! I had hoped MSR would have some way to send the cans back to them for recycling/reuse. Better yet, make a can/fuel that works on this stove that is also refillable.

  16. After you poke a hole in it, you can recycle it just like an empty pork-n-beans can.

    Manufacturers don't refill them because they don't know how many times they might have been used. Eventually, the valve wears out and they would leak.

  17. This is probably heresy on this site, but these cans remind me of plastic water bottles. They just generate waste, regardless if they are recycled.

    Maybe we should go back to white gas.

  18. Hey! I like white gas. Winter is here and it's time to melt some snow.

  19. Wanted to also mention an irony about plastic bottles. I reuse them so many times, that I now buy water bottles for the express purpose of using them on the trail, and often pour the electrolyte swill they contain down the drain without drinking it.

  20. I've been using the "church key" for years. I can't see spending the $ for this gadget. I do recommend attaching the stove and opening the valve for a while before grabbing the "church key." I also let the canisters sit outdoors for a couple of hours before putting them in the recycling. Maybe that's overkill!

    My main problem is a collection of canisters that contain only an ounce or two of fuel. I need to go on a long car-camping trip so I can use them up!

  21. Heh, this is one of the myriad of reasons I stick with white gas. Though Sherpa the Chemical engineer would probably love to have conversations on how to blow the canisters up *grin*

  22. Watch out for the patriot act there…

  23. For maximal green, use alcohol stoves. Fuel made from cast-off biomass, reusable containers.

    The PowerMax stoves are popular for snow camping. The liquid feed allows them to work at very low temps and they light quickly.

  24. Snow Peak also makes a small tool, which they consider an accessory.. go figure..

  25. "we will have to agree to disagree?"

    Why must I agree to do that?

    I have both the scientific knowledge and the practical experience to understand that the energy contained in a depleted butane canister; 8% butane to 92% air for a minimum explosive mixture; is fairly harmless.

    Though you may pretend whatever you wish along with the other 'drama queens' on the forum, I feel no need to acquiesce to such silliness so don't presume to tell me that I have to.

  26. lostalot & Tom – I've published your comments because they had some useful info, but lets de-escalate the tension from here on about this topic. Thx.

  27. My fault, Posting While Drunk.

    Sorry Tom.

  28. Not to run over a dead cat here but I don’t think the stove manufacturers have any interest in improving liquid fuel stoves or getting their costs down.

    Canisters guarantee repeat business.

  29. I'm not so sure. Sustainability/green has emerged as a great marketing tool. An easy to recycle canister is probably more attractive to a lot of people than one that's not.

  30. Hi Philip

    I had 'lost' your blog somehow – but now I re-found you. With the cartridges I use them all up warming the chimney in my cottage prior to setting the fire so that the column of air doesn't sink and fill the cottage with smoke. When the cartridge is empty I whack it with a screwdriver. Never had an explosion….. yet…

  31. Alan, I was distressed to hear about your accident with the barbed wire, but glad to see that you are up again and typing. As usual, you see right to the key issue which is how to use the buggers up before you whack them with the screwdriver. Wish I had a chimney….

  32. Actually…Jetboil didn't beat REI to the punch. REI actually collaborated with Jetboil on this project and gave them the idea (read the press release). REI has been working hard to crack this nut over the last 10 years and has been working with Jetboil for the last. They tried recycling in the stores but DOT regualations make that virtually impossible.

  33. Pete – thanks for the real story about REI's contribution. I don't have the press release so I can't read it, but I've (re)written enough of them to avoid them as primary sources of information. Thanks for filling in the details!

  34. The 4 ounce canister sells for $5 at REI. Instead of throwing one away, I’ve experimented with recharging by buying an adapter from eBay to charge from 8 ounce butane canisters sold at Asian markets. Four 8 ounce canisters cost $4 and will recharge 8 times, before I throw the 4 ounce canister out. The manufacturer label for the 4 ounce canister warns to not recharge, but i think it is to cover their liability and continue to overcharge for fuel. The recharge procedure is no more than depressing the valve, just like you do when you screw in a stove, then I check the valve for leak with a little soap after charge. I keep the canister in my sleeping bag on cold nights to ensure performance. I’m not sure if this is much more environmentally greener, since i need to dispose of the 8 ouncers, but at least it keeps green in my pocket to the tune of paying $9 for the equivalent of 9 4-ounce canisters.

  35. Would it work on Coleman propane canisters?

    Also, why would punching a hole through an apparently empty canister (that may have some residual fuel) in it not be dangerous? Is it because there’s no chance of explosion?

    • Probably not. Coleman canisters are quite heavy duty because the propane is under so much more pressure. You let the gas out before you punch a hole in it. Otherwise, boom. The hole lets people see that there’s nothing inside.

  36. Fuel canisters aren’t normally all that dangerous… It is oxygen cylinders which are dangerous..
    Obviously don’t puncture a fuel canister in presence of a naked flame otherwise a simple can opener such as used to be used to open cans of orange juice (such as Raro).. After puncturing I crush canisters flatten with a sledge hammer or a convenient rock.

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