Bear Spray Recycling History

yellowstone bear spray recycling

Outdoor enthusiasts who visit and recreate in state or national parks and forests are encouraged to carry bear spray as a defense against bears, but disposing of the canisters may be a problem.

For many years, federal land management agencies within the Greater Yellowstone Area (GYA), where bear spray is considered essential backcountry gear, have been acutely aware of bear spray canisters ending up in landfills. This not only wastes recyclable materials but also creates a potential for accidental discharge.

In 2008, the Gallatin National Forest received research funding (through USDA) to explore opprtunities that would address the concept of recycling these canisters.

Through a partnership with Montana State University (MSU) Mechanical Enineerin Department with technical information provided by Counter Assault (bear spray manufacturer) and Mountain State Environmental Services (engineering firm), the first prototype unit was designed and built. In February, 2010, the MSU unit was unveiled and successfully demonstrated.

The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (WDEQ) and YNP reached an agreement in 2008 to initiate a program within the park to recycle thousands of cans of bear spray that were previously discarded each year in the park. Yellowstone NP took advantage of this success to hire Mountain States Environmental, Inc to construct the first ever commercial grade recycling unit, utilizing the principles that were developed by the MSU students.

The unit was completed and delivered in August, 2010. It is envisioned that this unitwill eventually process and prepare for recycling bear spray canisters collected throughout the Greater Yellowstone Area. The Yellowstone NP unit is able to extract all contents through a coalescing filter process that separates the ingredients for eventual recycling or reuse. The empty canisters then are punctured and flattened and sold to any recycling center as high quality aluminum.