Common Wastes in Auto Recycling Facilities

Common wastes in auto recycling facilities that may be dangerous waste are described in the table below.

Links go to publications or pages that offer more information on the waste.

Common Wastes in Auto Recycling Facilities

Waste

Where/ Why

Waste Code

Absorbent materials (See Used Shop Towels) Absorbents contaminated with dangerous waste may become dangerous waste.

Code depends on materials absorbed (e.g. D008, D018, F002).

Aerosol cans Propellant is most likely ignitable, and the product may be dangerous waste. Char: D001, D003, Test to determine the waste code of contents.
Air bags Sodium azide in undeployed air bags may burn exposed skin. Unstable reactive waste. Dangerous to inhale. D003
Antifreeze, Spent ethylene glycol Always state-only waste and often characteristic-toxic, due to lead and other heavy metals. Recyclable. WT02. Not needed if recycled.
Batteries, Lead-acid (See Vehicle Battery Recycling at WAC 173-331.) Corrosive acid. Corrodes metals or other materials or burns skin. Contains lead and sulfuric acid ph < 2. D002 & D008. Not needed if recycled under spent lead acid battery exclusion.
Brake and carburetor cleaners Usually contains chlorinated solvent – methylene chloride. Can contaminate non-hazardous wastes, e.g. used oil, transmission fluid. Persistent. F002
Brake fluid Toxic when contaminated with chlorinated solvents from brake cleaner and if it contains certain additives. Persistent. F002, or if not contaminated, manage under used oil regulations without codes.

Contaminated soil

Toxic, characteristic possibly due to heavy metals, - lead, cadmium, chromium, arsenic, total petroleum hydrocarbons and volatile organics. Test to determine contents and waste codes.

Fuel and fuel filters

Flammable, ignitable. Flashpoint less than 140F. Capable of causing explosion & fire. Water contaminated gasoline or diesel that cannot be used in vehicles “as is” as a fuel. D001 for un-drained filters. Manage drained metal filters as scrap metal. Designate drained plastic filters for proper disposal. Manage drained fuel for energy recovery (burning) if contaminated with only water.

Hot tank solutions

Corrosive from spent cleaning solutions and sludge. D002, Test to determine contents and waste codes; Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP) may also apply.

Lead parts

Example: lead wheel weights, battery cable ends. Toxic, characteristic. Causes lead poisoning. D008 or Recycle as scrap metal without codes.

Mercury Switches

Example: hood and trunk light switches & anti-lock brake (ABS) sensors. Highly toxic metal. Extremely toxic to nervous system. D009, Can be handled as Universal Waste.
Mercury-containing lights and lamps (Fluorescent bulbs and tubes) Bulbs and tubes can be characterized as toxic, due to mercury, but they can be handled as a universal waste. D009, Can be handled as Universal Waste.

PCB-Containing Light Ballasts

Ballasts are listed with PCB concentration of ≥ 2 ppm. WPCB, Not needed if managed under PCB exclusion.
Paint, oil based, used or expired Listed and ignitable waste: the solvent blend contains, before use, ten percent or more of solvents such as, toluene, and MEK (for F001, F002 F004 F005 listed waste only). The mixture also has a flash point below 140°F. D001 or Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP) for a heavy metal.

Refrigerants

Example: chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). If released to atmosphere, they will destroy the ozone layer. D019 and D022. Not needed if recycled under CFC exclusion.
Scrap metal Catalytic converters recycled for platinum content. Test for waste code. Some regulation relief if managed under the precious metal exclusion. No codes needed if managed as scrap metal.
Shop Towels / Rags Contaminated with Dangerous Waste Absorbents contaminated with a listed solvent or soaked with dangerous waste become dangerous waste. Toxic, ignitable depending on use to clean, or solvent type. However, rags/ towels are not considered dangerous waste if they are
  • Laundered at an appropriate facility AND
  • Stored in containers away from a source of ignition AND
  • Not mixed with other waste.
Test for waste code if rags aren't managed according to the best management practice in the Used Shop Towels Focus Sheet.

Solvent, parts-cleaner waste 

Listed and ignitable waste: the solvent blend contains, before use, ten percent or more of solvents such as, toluene, and MEK (for F001, F002 F004 F005 listed waste only). The mixture also has a flash point below 140°F. Listed: F001, F002, F003, F004, F005 Char: D001 or Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP) for heavy metals.

Sludge or “bottoms” from solvent still

Listed and often ignitable waste: Still bottoms from a still where the solvent blend contains, before use, 10% or more of solvents such as, toluene, and MEK (for F001, F002 F004 F005 listed waste only). The mixture also has a flash point below 140°F. Listed: F001, F002, F003, F004, F005 Char: D001 or Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP) for heavy metals.
Sump sludges Characteristic – toxic for heavy metals, total petroleum hydrocarbons. WT02, not needed, if reclaimed.
Tires, waste Tires are not considered dangerous waste, but no more than 800 tires can be stored on-site at any time. Not needed.
Transmission filters and fluids Dangerous waste if they contain certain additives or if they have become contaminated with other solvents, brake cleaner or carburetor cleaner. Not dangerous waste if recycled under used oil regulations.
Used motor oil and filters

See Used Oil Facts

Often characteristic-toxic waste due to levels of lead and/or benzene. Usually recycled.  Test to determine waste code or recycle through approved handler/recycler. 
Windshield washer fluid Mainly alcohol, water and detergent. Many contain small amounts of antifreeze. Not needed if reused.

 

Related information

Vehicle Recycling Manual: A Guide for Vehicle Recycling  is an Ecology publication that can assist Auto Recyclers with dangerous-waste management.

Auto Mercury Switch Removal Program reimburses three dollars per mercury-containing switch. Auto recyclers and scrap-metal processors now have a chance to earn cash while helping to protect our future.

Mercury Switch Removal Poster is an Ecology poster listing the affected switches to hang in your shop.

Mercury Switch-Removal Guide is an Ecology publication for mechanics and auto recyclers about replacing switches.

Manage Waste for Auto Recyclers offers guidance for dangerous-waste management for auto recycling facilities.

Shop Guide for Dangerous Waste Management is an Ecology publication and guide to handling many types of common shop wastes.

Vehicle Recyclers: A Guide for Implementing the Industrial Stormwater General National Pollutant Elimination Discharge System (NPDES) Permit Requirements provides vehicle recyclers with information on how to comply with the NPDES Industrial Stormwater General Permit.