Automotive recyclers

Cars contain a variety of parts that can be removed and recycled. Many parts can be toxic and often, during the removal process, waste and spills can be unavoidable. We work with salvage yards and other auto recycling businesses to improve recycling practices and ensure materials are managed according to the dangerous waste regulations.

Notice about recalled airbags

We have proposed changes to the regulations that would affect businesses that collect recalled air bags. Go to our Chapter 173-303 WAC rulemaking web page for more information.

Best practices for automotive recycling

  • Inspect incoming vehicles for leaks from engines, radiators, transmissions, differentials, and fuel tanks.
  • Place drip pans under leaks to collect all fluids.
  • Do not tip vehicles on their sides allowing fluids to spill onto the ground.
  • Drain all fluids from vehicles over a covered concrete drip pad with spill containment before crushing or storing on bare ground.
  • Remove mercury switches from hood/trunk and ABS sensors.
  • Check for and remove lead wheel weights.
  • Remove battery. Take special care with hybrid cars that may come with lithium batteries.

Find more best practices in our Vehicle Recycling Manual.

How to manage most common wastes

Recycling materials is encouraged because it can decrease the amount of dangerous waste your business produces. Most materials auto recyclers handle can be recycled or reused, but some may still require designation and careful handling.

  • Do not mix wastes.
  • Store all wastes in proper containers with labels.

For wastes that do not designate and cannot be recycled or reused, you may dispose of:

Waste Best Handling Method
Air bags Sell or dispose of properly.
Antifreeze Sell, reuse, or recycle on site or off site.
Batteries 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.
Fuel Dispose of through a waste service provider.
Fuel filters Drain them of fuel. Manage drained metal filters as scrap metal.
Lead parts (wheel weights, battery cable ends) Recycle as scrap metal.
Mercury auto switches Dispose of properly through our Automotive Mercury Switch Removal Program.
Plastics Look for ways to recycle. New technologies are coming online every day.
Refrigerants Use EPA-certified equipment and technicians. Reuse on site or send off site to an 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 other wastes. Dispose of as normal solid waste.
Solvents Recycle through a service provider or dispose of as dangerous waste.  Extend change-out time until solvent is unusable.
Stormwater Avoid contamination. Get a stormwater permit if discharging off site or register if using UIC.
Sump sludge If it doesn't designate as dangerous waste, dispose of through a solid waste facility.
Tires Recycle when possible, sell, or transport and dispose of properly.
Transmission fluid Recycle.
Used oil Recycle.
Used oil filters Drain oil, recycle filter through scrap metal dealer.
Windshield washer fluid Reuse or sell.

While most auto parts can be recycled, some will require designation. For example:

  • Brake and carburetor cleaners often contain chlorinated solvent (methylene chloride).
    Waste code: F002.
  • Sump sludge must be designated to determine if it's dangerous waste.

Drips and spills

Material that drips, leaks, or spills is waste unless it can still be used.

  • Clean up drips, leaks, and spills promptly so they don’t spread.
  • Use proper containment.
  • Keep waste accumulation areas dry and clean.

Improve your spill response

You must report any spill that endangers human health or the environment, regardless of the size.

  • Keep spill cleanup supplies handy and train employees how to use them.
  • Choose compatible absorbents.
    • For small spills, use absorbent granules, pads, or other materials. It may create less dangerous waste than washing with water.
  • Designate and properly dispose of spill debris.