Campers wondering how to responsibly get rid of their used Coleman stove propane bottles may finally have an answer.

Jim Sands was at Kootenay National Park’s Redstreak campground recently using a homebuilt machine to removed hazardous materials (i.e. leftover propane) from the bottles and make them recyclable.

“People really didn’t know what to do with them and in many cases, still don’t,” said Mr. Sands.

Mr. Sands has been using his machine for several months now, doing several jobs for Parks Canada. He recycled 5,500 propane bottles in Banff in April as well as 1,200 in Lake Louise and 1,800 at Redstreak so far this month.

The machine was built by a man in Nova Scotia who sold it to Mr. Sands last fall. He redesigned it to more than double its operational capacity and put it inside a trailer, making his recycling operation mobile.

Most metal recycling facilities will not accept bottles that once contained hazardous material unless they are flattened and punctured, since this clearly indicates they are truly empty. Mr. Sand’s machine sucks all leftover propane from the bottles — 24 of them at a time.

He then crushes and punctures the bottles.

Often bottles just end up getting thrown in garbages or even buried instead of being disposed of properly, according to Mr. Sands.

“There was a need for the service and there is a need for people to be educated on what to do with them,” he said. “I want people to realize there is a responsible, environmental way to get rid of them.”

Properly recycling such bottles is usually quite expensive, mostly because of the high cost associated with transporting hazardous materials, but by putting his machine in the trailer Mr. Sands said he eliminates those costs.

Mr. Sands said he uses several testing devices and safety procedures (such as making his crusher hydraulic and making sure there is no open spark source in the trailer) to ensure the leftover propane, which can be explosive, doesn’t pose a safety risk.

At top speed, he can process 80 of the small propane bottles in an hour and, if he decides to use a separate generator for his crushing machine, he could do 120 bottles an hour.

He collects the leftover propane and then uses it to fuel the generator that powers the mobile machine.

“It’s a closed loop system,” said Mr. Sands. “I’ll never have to buy propane again.”

At the Redstreak campground job, he collected and reused 180 pounds (or about 80 kilograms) of propane.

Mr. Sands currently runs his propane bottle recycling operation on a part-time basis, but he said he hopes it will eventually grow into a full time job.