How to Dispose of 55 Gallon Drums


State and federal agencies encourage the re-use and recycling of large and sturdy 55-gallon drums to conserve natural resources. If the drum is not able to be re-used, it can be recycled as scrap metal. Because these drums might have contained dangerous materials at one time, though, special care must be taken to ensure they are disposed of properly without damage to the environment or to public health.

Things You'll Need

  • Mechanical drum opener

Preparing the Drum to be Re-Used

  • Empty the drum completely by pouring, pumping and aspirating the remaining fluids from it. If it is an open-head drum, cover it with a lid sealed by heavy-duty bolt clamps, snap rings or bungs.

  • Contact your state's environmental services agency and request it to come collect the drum.

  • Place the drum in a clearly visible area to prevent damage to the service vehicle picking it up. Choose an impermeable surface away from standing water or drainage areas. Make sure the label is facing outward and is clear to read.

Preparing the Drum to be Recycled as Scrap Metal

  • Empty and thoroughly clean the drum, ensuring that no residue or impurities remain.

  • Remove the top and bottom of the drum using a mechanical drum opener.

  • Crush or flatten the drum, then contact the relevant environmental services provider to collect it.

Tips & Warnings

  • Never re-use drums that have contained hazardous materials in the past.
  • Do not re-use or donate for re-use a drum that has structural damage, such as rust or dents.
  • Never use a torch to remove the bottom or top ends of the drum, as this risks igniting any flammable substances within.

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  • Photo Credit Oil Drums image by Yali Shi from
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