Dropping the eco-ball: camp stove manufacturers

I’ve camped with folks who really love the JetBoil system. Others have endorsed JetBoil’s products online. It’s true that the JetBoil stove can certainly can put a hot steaming mug of caffeinated goodness in one’s hand very quickly on a cold morning.

However, the JetBoil system uses a proprietary propane/iso-butane fuel mix; on their website, they state “we cannot claim safe operation with any canister other than our Jetpower brand of fuel.” A closed, proprietary standard, to be sure.

Strike One.

Their fuel canisters are not refillable, either, being designed only for one-time use. Yes, they are recyclable, but who among us knows off the top of their head where they can go nearby to recycle these canisters? This type of helpful information does not appear to be present on the JetBoil website.

Strike Two.

Landfills: let's not fill 'em up so fast.

Landfills: let’s not fill ’em up so fast.

Years ago I made a commitment to not buy disposable/nonrefillable products if there were alternative products available. Products that are disposable or are not designed to be reused merely clog the landfills and enlarge the aggregate ecological footprint, our per capita impact on the Earth.

Therefore, when recently replacing my trusty old Coleman stove, I did not purchase a JetBoil system.

I wrote to the JetBoil folks and asked the question, “Do you plan to produce a fuel canister that is refillable and/or can the JetBoil connect to a larger fuel distribution system such as a one-gallon propane tank?”

This morning I received the following response from Kristen Headley at JetBoil Customer Service:

“At this time our canisters are not refillable. However the canisters can be recycled anywhere that will recycle steel products. When recycling we do recommend that you puncture the canisters before sending them to be recycled. This can be done with a common can opener.”

Ms. Headley’s response is quite disappointing, if not also shocking. It tells me nothing that I don’t already know, plus it evades my question. Apparently JetBoil does not plan to adopt a universal system that allows for reuse. It is also not clear to me why I should puncture the fuel canister prior to recycling. Quite frankly, the last thing I’m willing to do is to puncture a pressurized fuel canister. In fact, the Northeast Recycling Council, a non-profit organization, advises the public that “The individual consumer should never attempt to puncture, incinerate or otherwise vent [a] fuel canister except through its normal intended use.”

The NERC goes on to state, “…the canister may be recycled in some communities if accepted in the recycling program or at the household hazardous waste collection site.”

Grabbing pine (keeping the bench warm), when we should be on the field.

Grabbing pine (keeping the bench warm), when we should be
on the field.

Strike Three. YOU’RE OUT!!!  (Go grab some pine, meat.)

There’s two big ifs wrapped up in this problem of recycling nonrefillable fuel canisters. Most people will have to drive to one location to buy their proprietary one-size-does-not-fit-all fuel canister, then drive to another location to recycle those same canisters — if they can find one within a reasonable distance and if that recycling location accepts spent fuel canisters. (Only 1 in 6 recycle centers does so within 50 miles of my home.) To say nothing of using more gasoline to accomplish these tasks, most people will, I’m afraid, just throw their spent canisters away, thereby adding to the landfill problem.

Until JetBoil and other campstove manufacturers adopt product policies that incorporate zero waste and a more open design approach to fuel type, canister reuse, and fuel distribution systems, I cannot in good conscience buy or endorse their nonrefillable products.



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