Automotive recyclers

Cars contain a variety of parts that can be recycled if handled properly, but some parts can also be toxic and considered dangerous waste. Learn how to manage the most common dangerous waste as well as how to:

Common dangerous wastes at auto recycling facilities 

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

  • 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.

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.

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.

Click to read the Vehicle Recycling Guide (publication 97-433).
Best practices for automotive recycling

Applying P2 best practices can reduce the amount of dangerous waste at your facility, improve safety, and reduce spills. Learn more from our Vehicle Recycling Manual:

  • Reduce the potential for leaks:
    • Inspect incoming vehicles for leaks.
    • 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.
  • Properly handle items during removal:
    • Remove mercury switches and ABS sensors.
    • Check for and remove lead wheel weights.
    • Remove the battery. Take special care with hybrid cars that may have lithium batteries.