Airbags, especially undeployed ones from recalls or cars destined to become scrap, can be difficult to dispose of. This is because an undeployed airbag contains many hazardous materials that make it unsuitable for regular disposal or handling. The following are a few of the options available if you find yourself trying to dispose of an old airbag.
Although recycling of airbags is legal, it isn't free. Generally you will have to locate a recycler in your area or one that will take shipments. There is typically a per-unit fee that has to be paid. In some cases, you may be able to drop your airbag off with a dealership or a salvage yard locally. They will still likely charge you a fee, but it will be less since they will be getting a bulk discount on recycling.
When you are shipping the airbag, you will need to first contact the recycler for the proper container for shipping. This is part of the fee you are paying, since hazardous waste must be shipped in a proper container and through a proper carrier. The actual shipping cost will be on top of the fee charged by the recycler and it will be your responsibility.
Proper disposal means a trip to the nearest hazardous waste facility. If you are lucky enough to have a facility in your area, this option can be financially on par with recycling by mail. If you need to ship the item to the nearest hazardous waste facility, you are once again faced with the disposal fee plus the shipping fee. You will also need to purchase your own hazardous waste shipping container. This will make disposal more expensive than recycling.
Disposal has another major drawback in that the materials are left in a dump, where they will not break down or be reused. This can be a major environmental concern. In the end, recycling is usually the more environmentally-friendly option and its cost is comparable or even lower than disposal.
Most of the hazardous waste involved with an airbag has to do with the materials that are present until deployment – once deployed, most hazards are gone. This means that it is much easier and more inexpensive to recycle or dispose of deployed airbags. This doesn't mean that you should purposefully deploy them, though. Deployment without cause can be illegal in some states, since it releases the hazardous materials when it would otherwise have been avoidable. Instead, contact a disposal or recycling facility at plan to get rid of the device as safely as possible.