Automotive recyclers

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
  • Antifreeze
  • Asbestos
  • 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)
  • Refrigerants
  • 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. 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.


Best Handling Method

Air bags

Sell or dispose of properly.


Sell, reuse, or recycle on site or off site. 


Remove, store in proper containers, and recycle. 

Brake fluid

Manage uncontaminated brake fluid as used oil. 

Empty containers

Reuse on site or recycle off site. 


Dispose of through a dangerous waste company. 

Mercury auto switches

Remove mercury switch assembly for convenience lights in vehicle hood and/or trunk and anti-lock braking (ABS) system sensors.  Dispose of properly through the Automotive Mercury Switch Removal Program.


Look for ways to recycle.  New technologies are coming online every day. 


Remove refrigerant using EPA certified equipment and technician.  Reuse on site or send off site to EPA certified recycling firm. 

Shop towels

Use a commercial service that provides laundered cloth towels.

Solid wastes

Place in a closed container (garbage can or dumpster).  Do not contaminate with any other waste on this list and dispose of as normal solid waste. 


Recycle through service provider or dispose of as dangerous waste.  Extend change-out time until solvent is unusable. 


Avoid contamination.  Get covered by stormwater permit if discharging off site, or register if using UIC. 

Sump sludge

Test sump sludge to determine if it is a dangerous waste.  If test shows it is hazardous, send it to an EPA registered dangerous waste management facility. 


Recycle when possible, sell, or transport and dispose of properly.

Transmission fluid


Used oil


Used oil filters

Drain oil, recycle filter through scrap metal dealer. 

Waste handling, storage, and disposal

Do not mix wastes. Store all wastes in proper containers with labels. Recycle or dispose of with an EPA registered firm. 

Windshield washer fluid

Reuse or sell.