Cash in the Can Refrigerant Can Recycling Program

Each year thousands of California vehicle owners recharge their vehicle’s air conditioning system, purchasing r134a refrigerant from auto parts stores. Usually there is some refrigerant left in the can after the recharging process. Because the unused refrigerant can potentially be expelled into the atmosphere and the used cans thrown away instead of recycled, the California Air Resource Board (CARB) adopted regulations to reduce these refrigerant emissions. Included in the regulations is a consumer education program as well as a retail deposit and recycling program.

The Cash in the Can program was developed by the Car Care Council in collaboration with CARB to promote proper vehicle air conditioner recharging. The program website offers informational videos and guidelines that consumers can follow to ensure they recharge their vehicle’s air conditioning system without releasing excess refrigerant into the air. In addition, the program encourages consumers to turn in their used cans for safe recycling. Retailers are required to collect a $10 deposit from the consumer at the time of the sale, then return the deposit to the consumer upon receipt of the used r134a container. Here are some frequently asked questions to help licensees educate consumers about refrigerant can recycling.

Where should cans be returned?

Consumers are encouraged to return cans to the store where they were purchased. However, cans may also be returned to any store where cans are sold. Southern California consumers can also take their cans to Refrigerant Handling, Inc., a permanent Cash in the Can recycling center located in Baldwin Park. A receipt or proof of purchase is not required.

Should a partially filled can be emptied before it is returned?

To ensure excess refrigerant is not released into the air, DO NOT empty the can. Simply return the partially filled can to the store where it was purchased to receive the $10 deposit.

Can old cans of refrigerant be returned?

Yes. There are no restrictions regarding the age of the cans.

Are there any restrictions on the cans?

Yes. Because this is a California program, the cans must have the California deposit symbol and wording indicating that a $10 deposit was paid for the can at the time of purchase.

The following cans are not accepted:

  • Punctured or crushed cans – breached cans will cause any remaining refrigerant to be expelled into the air, which the program aims to minimize.

  • New cans – it is recommended that consumers hold onto new cans until they have been used. There is no time limit on when cans must be returned.

  • R12 cans – older cans of r12 refrigerant were manufactured before the program was implemented, which means that no deposit was collected for these cans when they were purchased.

  • 30-pound tanks – in addition to r134a being available in small containers, it is also available in larger 30-pound commercial tanks. However, the 30-pound containers are not part of the program.

Where can I learn more about the Cash in the Can program?

View the Car Care Council presentation on the Cash in the Can program provided at the April 2021 BAR Advisory Group meeting or visit the Cash in the Can website.


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