How To Dispose Of Old Petrol


The vast majority of people only ever buy petrol to put it into their car, van or motorbike. Others keep a small supply in a petrol can (also known as a jerry can) in their car boot or garage too. This is usually in case of an emergency when you run out of fuel in the car on the move, or perhaps for lawnmower or chainsaw use.

Old petrol can be disposed of in small volumes (usually up to around five litres) at Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRC). You may need to book in advance and fees may apply, but most council tips offer the service on demand and for free.

petrol cans on shelf in garage

It’s advisable to check your local council website for more details, as some council areas with multiple HWRCs offer differing services at each site. A quick check online will usually tell you whether your closest tip accepts petrol and/or diesel, whether you need to book in advance and whether a fee is payable. If not, the chances are another nearby location will be available.

How Long Is Petrol Good For?

A big part of how long petrol can be stored in cans is what you’re using it for. As it’s been exposed to the air as it’s transferred from the pump to the can, you should consider it to be degrading over time.

For use in your vehicle, petrol should be used within six months of being dispensed at the forecourt pump. A year is more reasonable for the use of fuel in machines like diesel and petrol lawnmowers and hedge cutters, as they are less sensitive to lower quality fuel.

To slow the process of degradation, store the fuel in a tightly sealed can in the shade, as the cooler the temperature, the longer it maintains quality. What’s more, a good quality can reduces the risk of leakage – especially important in moving vehicles.

Does Petrol Go Out Of Date?

We’re used to best before dates in the context of food, but does petrol have an equivalent? As you would normally obtain fuel from pumps at the petrol station, there’s not date stamped on packaging like with food.

Petrol should be considered fine to use in vehicles for six months from purchase when sealed in a suitable can and stored below twenty degrees Celsius (centigrade). At warmer temperatures, the petrol spoils much faster – for example just ninety days at thirty degrees.

Fortunately in the UK we don’t have a climate that frequently far exceeds twenty degrees, so carefully storing the fuel can in the shade should be acceptable.

How Do I Dispose Of Petrol At Home?

If you realise that you’ve kept fuel for your car beyond the recommended six months, it should still be fine to use for a while in garden machinery such as petrol mowers and hedge cutting equipment. Be sure to check the manual if you’re unsure though. Typically these engines are less likely to struggle with lower quality degraded petrol and diesel than more finely tuned roadworthy engines.

If you leave the cap off of a petrol can the fuel will gradually evaporate. However, a better option is to use your local tip who will be able to dispose of petrol safely on your behalf.

Can I Pour Petrol Down The Drain?

Drains are our access to the sewage system, and while some people are careless with what they pour away, most people are responsible and don’t want to damage the environment.

Never pour petrol down the drain, as it could eventually contaminate the water supply as it makes its way through the sewer system. Sewage plants are not intended to treat discarded chemicals and other waste like fuel.

Can Old Petrol Be Recycled?

Petrol is classed as chemical waste, and must be recycled as such. Petrol ending up in landfill would be a significant hazard, which is actually true of many types of waste including batteries and light bulbs.

Petrol is recycled carefully, following similar procedures to other chemical waste to prevent environmental damage. Most tips in the UK have procedures in place for accepting petrol, diesel and wider types of chemical waste.

How Long Does It Take For Petrol To Evaporate?

If you’ve had a petrol spill, you should find it evaporates quite rapidly, usually in a matter of hours. However, that can damage surfaces, and kill grass or plant life, not to mention contaminate soil.

If you have an uncontrolled leak of petrol, it can evaporate quickly. However, you can minimise environmental risk and surface damage by using absorbent substances like sand to soak it up and shovel into thick bags.

How Do I Dispose Of Diesel Fuel?

Diesel can broadly be treated in the same way as petrol for disposal purposes, so follow the guidance above.

Diesel and petrol are treated in a similar manner by council tips, but it’s a good idea to phone ahead to make sure your nearest tip accepts fuel, and whether any special rules apply in your area.

How Do You Dispose Of Petrol From A Lawn Mower?

If you’ve just got the mower out after the winter and realised you forgot to drain the petrol before the cold set in, you might find it’s separated since the last use. While some people will give it a mix with a stick poked into the tank and use it anyway, there’s a risk of damage, or at least repeated stalls and splutters.

Old separated petrol in a mower should be drained into a suitable sealed container and taken to the tip for proper recycling or disposal. Use of old, degraded petrol can damage the engine, o may not be worth the risk.

Disposal Of Petrol And The Law

Oil storage regulations cover all types of oil, ranging from cooking oils through to engine oil and vehicle fuel. However, some exemptions exist that mean not all rules apply to smaller quantities of oils, and those which are no longer suitable for fuelling vehicles. When it comes to disposal, however, the law is clear that environmental damage must be avoided.

What To Do If The Council Tip Do Not Accept Petrol

Some councils will not accept petrol at any of their sites, so what should you do if that’s your area?

If your council tip don’t accept petrol, many local garages regularly dispose of petrol, diesel and oil as part of their business. It’s unlikely to be free, but they may dispose of it for a small fee to cover their costs.

Always transport fuels in suitable containers, regardless of whether you’re taking it to the tip or a garage. That means a sealed container like a petrol can. In a vehicle, fuel cans should always be in the boot, not in the passenger cabin.

Liam Gifford

I'm Liam. I spent twenty four years on the bins in South Yorkshire and now spend my time on recycling projects. I created this site to use my knowledge of how the rounds work, and what people need to know about getting their wheelie bins emptied every week.

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