This story is part of The Salt Lake Tribune’s ongoing commitment to identify solutions to Utah’s biggest challenges through the work of the Innovation Lab.
Keeping the air clean is a monumental task that requires the effort from private and public organizations, but Utahns can take a small, individual step to lower emissions by simply changing how they store gasoline.
If you use use gas-powered equipment for lawn care or other projects, you probably have a large red can full of gas you keep in your garage or other storage space. Old gas cans, typically those made more than a decade ago, emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
VOCs can cause eye, nose and throat irritation; headaches; dizziness; nausea; and damage to the liver, kidneys and central nervous system, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Some VOCs are linked to cancer.
The Utah Clean Air Partnership (UCAIR) will take your old gas cans Saturday and hand you a new one known to be less harmful.
If you bring an old can, UCAIR will give you an EPA-approved SureCan brand can at the Salt Lake County Environmental Health Department, 788 Woodoak Lane, in Murray. The program runs from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. or until exchangeable cans run out.
“We’re really all about individual actions that people can take to help be a part of the solution to help clear the air,” executive director Kim Frost said. “This is one of those measures that we encourage people to do.”
This is UCAIR’s second such program this year -- the first at the Boeing facility in West Jordan early in the summer -- and Frost said she expects 1,000 to 1,500 cans to be exchanged in Murray.
While it can sound like an insignificant way to reduce emissions, removing 1,000 leaking cans from use for five years has the same emissions impact as keeping 105 cars off the road for each of those years, Frost said.
“It’s a larger impact than you would think,” Frost said. “A lot of people are surprised by that.”
The exchange -- which is done in partnership with Boeing, Union Pacific, the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation and the Salt Lake County Environmental Health Department -- will provide 5-gallon gas cans which release fewer emissions because of the type of sealing on the nozzle cap and the thicker walls of the can, according to UCAIR.
The old gas cans are clipped with bolt cutters to prevent them being used again before going to the landfill, Frost said. A recycler that UCAIR has worked with wasn’t able to take the cans for this program, but Frost said, “We really felt like it was still important to get those (cans) out of circulation.”
Not everyone has the means to replace their gas-powered lawn care equipment with more environmentally friendly electric options, Frost said. Replacing an old gas can gives them the option to do something small to cut back emissions.
“This is another way where, even if you’re going to use your gas mower, you can help contribute to air quality,” Frost said.