Cars contain a variety of toxic materials. When recycled, each part that contains chemicals classified as dangerous waste must be managed appropriately. We work with businesses to ensure these materials are managed according to Washington's dangerous waste regulations.
Common types of dangerous waste in auto recycling
- Aerosol cans
- Batteries, particularly lead-acid batteries
- Empty containers
- Fluorescent bulbs and PCB-containing light ballasts
- Lead-containing materials (such as wheel weights, battery cable ends)
- Mercury auto switches (hood and trunk light switches, anti-lock brake sensors)
- Mercury light bulbs and lamps
- Paint (waste or expired, oil- or solvent-based)
- PCB-containing light ballasts (Washington State-only waste)
- Scrap metal (catalytic converters, metal fuel filters, lead parts)
- Soil (contaminated by heavy metals requires testing to determine waste codes)
- Solvents (brake and carburetor cleaners, hot tank solutions, methylene chloride, paint thinners, gun-cleaning solvent, toluene or MEK, sludge or “bottoms” from solvent stills that recycle gun cleaner or thinner)
- Used shop towels and other absorbent materials (kitty litter for oil, for example)
- Used oil (metal working oils, coolants, and debris)
- Vehicle parts: air bags, batteries, brake fluid, fuel and fuel filters, windshield washer fluid, tires
Designating vehicle parts
Some vehicle parts are unique to auto recyclers. Read our Vehicle Recycling Manual for a comprehensive list of vehicle parts, how to stay safe while handling them, and your options for recycling or disposing of them correctly.
Here are some examples of car parts that are hazardous and why:
- Air bags (undeployed) - contain sodium azide, which can burn skin and is dangerous to inhale. Waste code: D002.
- Brake fluids - toxic when contaminated with chlorinated solvents from brake cleaner. Waste code: F002. If it's not contaminated, it can be managed as used oil.
- Brake and carburetor cleaners - often contain chlorinated solvent (methylene chloride). Waste code: F002.
- Fuel - flammable. If contaminated by water only, manage for energy recovery.
- Fuel filters - flammable. Waste code: D001 (for un-drained filters). Manage drained metal filters as scrap metal (no codes needed).
- Lead parts (wheel weights, battery cable ends) - toxic. Waste code: D008, or recycle as scrap metal.
- Mercury switches, lights, and lamps: toxic. Waste code: D009, or Universal Waste.
- Refrigerants (chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs)) - destroys ozone layer. Waste code: D019 and D022. If recycled under CFC exclusion, no codes needed.
- Tires - not considered dangerous waste, but no more than 800 can be stored on site at any time.
- Transmission filters and fluids - toxic if contaminated with solvents, or brake or carburetor cleaner. No waste code needed if recycled as used oil.
- Used oil - toxic. Waste code: you must test it to determine the waste code, or recycle through an approved handler or recycler.
- Windshield washer fluid - can contain traces of antifreeze, alcohol, and detergent. Waste code: not needed if recycled.