HWTR Pollution Prevention

My Watershed

Pollution Prevention Checklist for Automotive and Equipment Repair Departments

Photo: Automotive teacher helping students.

The Washington Department of Ecology encourages schools and laboratories to find safer alternatives to reduce, or even eliminate the use of toxic substances.

The table below lists common hazardous substances found in automotive and equipment repair departments and preferred alternatives (in bold font), if available. Best management practices that can be used to reduce and prevent toxic wastes are also included.

Throughout all departments there are common issues with proper management of dangerous waste that is generated on site.  The following bullets identify the most common issues and give best management practices (BMPs) for proper identification, accumulation, and disposal of dangerous wastes.

More resources are listed at the bottom of this page.

Download a printable checklist in Word, or pdf.

For more information contact your local Ecology Regional Office.

Items or Processes of Concern Toxic Metal Dangerous Waste Preferred Alternatives and Best Management Practices
Floor cleaning   X
  • Use biodegradable or water-based floor cleaning detergents with a pH of 6.0 to 10.5 at point of use.
  • Avoid the use of detergents with emulsifying agents that reduce the effectiveness of the oil/water separator.
  • Avoid the use of detergents that could cause waste cleaning water to designate as dangerous waste (e.g., detergents with halogenated or aromatic compounds).
  • Use absorbent pads or trays to catch leaks or clean up spills to prevent waste from going down the drain.
  • Use oil/water separators to prevent oily wastes from being discharged down the drain.
  • Request approval from the local waste water treatment facility before discharging waste water down the drain.
Vehicle maintenance:
Oil and oil filters

Hydraulic fluid

Transmission fluid

Vehicle batteries

  • Drain oil filters before recycling.
  • Segregate and store all wastes properly to promote the potential for recycling.
  • Recycle used oil.
  • Recycle used oil filters.
  • Recycle lead acid batteries.
  • Recycle transmission fluid.
  • Recycle hydraulic fluid.
  • Recycle antifreeze.
  • If not recycled designate, and manage these spent items as dangerous waste as necessary.
Alkaline floor cleaner X X
  • Prevent leaks and spills by using drip trays and proper storage.
  • For facilities with clarifiers, discharge of cleaner can upset the operation of the clarifier by forming oil emulsions. Sludge removed from the clarifier might require disposal as a dangerous waste, depending on its composition.
Aqueous baths   X
  • Use bake-off ovens.
  • Use detergent-based cleaning solutions instead of caustic ones.
  • Install or convert free-running rinses to still rinse.
  • Use a hot tank or jet spray washer lease service.
  • Use dry pre-cleaning methods such as wire-brushing.
  • Maintain solution quality by monitoring composition.
  • Maintain equipment in proper working order.
  • Filter solids before they reach the waste sump.
  • Employ two-stage parts cleaning sequence.
Parts washer X X
  • Use an aqueous parts cleaner.
  • Use non-halogenated organic solvent.
  • Recycle spent solvent cleaner.
  • Operate solvent sinks properly, use drip trays, and allow more drainage time.
  • Contract with a service company to maintain solvent sink.
Flammable aerosol products   X
  • Use non-flammable aerosol products.
  • Replace single aerosol with a refillable spray bottle or plunger to deliver product.
  • Collect empty aerosol cans that contained flammable products and manage as dangerous waste.
Shop towels or wipes   X
  • Use cloth towels that can be laundered and reused.
  • Keep used wipes and towels in closed containers and label appropriately.
  • Reduce the size of the towel or wipe to reduce the amount of solvent used at the same time.
  • Reuse shop towels or wipes for repetitive tasks.
  • Don't dip towels or wipes in open solvent containers.
  • Limit the amount of solvent available for use each day.
  • Towels that are not laundered should be managed as the material they were used to absorb.
Painting X X
  • Use high solids/low volatile organic compound  and hazardous air pollutants paint.
  • Use coatings that do not have metal-based pigments.
  • Use efficient spray equipment, such as high volume - low pressure (HVLP), airless, or air assisted to reduce coating usage.
  • Reuse paint mixing cups and use metal mixing sticks (be sure to clean them before the paint dries).
  • Label and store leftover basecoats. Seal container tightly and store upside-down to prevent any air from entering.

Paint thinner
  • Use non-chlorinated solvents.
  • Use less hazardous solvents.
  • Use aqueous cleaner.
  • Keep lids closed when not in use.
  • Reuse slightly dirty thinner as a pre-wash.
  • Use a solvent recycler or distillation unit to recover used solvent and save money.
  • Determine how clean parts need to be.
  • Use solvents properly, don't use them to clean floors.
  • Increase cleaning efficiency.
  • Monitor solvent composition.
Welding X X
  • Use SAC1 solder (contains 95% tin, 3.9% silver, and 0.6% copper).
  • Use ECA polymers2 (containing metal flakes, such as silver).
  • Use cadmium-free filler metals when fluxing.
  • Use alternative fluxes to reduce volatile organic compound emissions or avoid post cleaning.
  • Optimize flux delivery.
  • Optimize heating of filler metal.
  • Process redesign to incorporate mechanical fastening rather than soldered connections.
General inventory    
  • Use Environmentally preferable purchasing.
  • Review Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) for hazardous substance information.
  • Properly store hazardous substances.
  • Review curriculum for potential hazardous substance reductions.
All generated waste streams

Spilled products

Unused and expired products
  • Use chemical inventory and tracking software to centralize product ordering, improve product tracking, storage requirement, waste management, reduce disposal of expired product, and minimize duplicate orders to prevent unnecessary disposal.
  • Identify all potential waste streams and establish designation procedures to determine if a hazardous waste or non-hazardous waste.
  • Implement dangerous waste designation, collection, accumulation, and disposal procedures for all waste streams.
  • See Common Dangerous Waste Compliance Issues.

Electronic equipment

  • Use energy-efficient computer and electronic equipment, and appliances.
  • Use vendor take-back programs.
  • Surplus old equipment
  • Recycle as Universal Waste.

Fluorescent lamps

Mercury-containing equipment
  • Use rechargeable batteries.
  • Use LED lamps when appropriate.
  • Use low-mercury fluorescent lamps.
  • Remove and/or replace mercury-containing equipment and manage as Universal Waste.
  • Implement a battery collection program and manage as Universal Waste.
  • Implement a whole-lamp recycling program and manage as Universal Waste.
  • If not recycled as Universal Waste collect, manage, and dispose of as dangerous waste.


1 SAC solder is a lead free metal alloy that consists of tin-silver-copper (Sn-Ag-Cu). All alternatives to lead-based solder require investigation to determine their suitability for use in certain applications. Other considerations for the substitution of the lead solder alternatives are temperature ranges, the amount of energy input required to apply the alternatives, changes in production time for higher temperature applications and conditions for consumer use of finished products. Research has to be done for operating temperature range, shock resistance, and moisture exposure.

2 ECA polymers are electrically conductive adhesives (ECA) that "stick" components onto a substrate, in effect, replacing the solder.

This page last updated September 2015