Auto Body Shops Pollution Prevention Guide

#11 - Used Filters

Auto body shops produce several different types of used filters: engine oil, fuel, transmission, antifreeze (from antifreeze recycling units); and paint booth filters (discussed in #6 - Paint Equipment Cleanup).

In order to minimize waste and reduce the potential impact used filters could have on the environment, consider:

  • Recycling used filters
  • Properly managing used filters as either non-hazardous or hazardous waste

Recycling Used Filters

Recycling is the best management option for dealing with used oil, transmission, fuel, and antifreeze filters. The metal recovered from the recycling process can be reused, saving raw material and energy used for producing new products. To see if used filters are recyclable in your area, contact your supplier, used oil or antifreeze recycler, or local salvage/recycling facility.

Managing Used Filters

There are two types of used oil filters: terne-plated and non-terne-plated. Terne-plated oil filters (from old and large equipment) contain an alloy of lead and tin. Due to these metals, used terne-plated filters can be considered a hazardous waste.

Waste non-terne-plated oil filters are usually considered non-hazardous as long as they have been drained -- referred to as "gravity hot-drained." Once drained, they can be recycled or disposed of as a solid waste (with your local solid waste authority's approval). Gravity hot-drained filters should be crushed, punctured, or dismantled, and left to drain until empty (at near engine operating temperatures is recommended).

Spent transmission and fuel filters are not regulated as hazardous wastes as long as they too have been gravity hot-drained, and can be recycled or disposed of as a solid waste (with your local solid waste authority's approval).

If you have an antifreeze recycling unit, you may have spent filters to dispose of periodically. Spent antifreeze recycler unit filters can pick up metals as it cleans the antifreeze, causing the filter to be characterized as hazardous. If they are found to be hazardous, they must be managed as any other hazardous waste. Dry, non-hazardous filters can be recycled or disposed of as a solid waste (with your local solid waste authority's approval).

The following series of questions will help you develop ways of preventing pollution in used filter management:

Used Filters YES NO
1) Do you hot-drain your used filters? To properly recycle or dispose of spent non-hazardous filters, they must be hot-drained. Never drain the filters outdoors. Puncture, crush, or dismantle the oil filter to allow most of the trapped oil to escape and be collected for recycling.    
2) Do you buy non-terne-plated oil filters? In most cases, non-terne-plated filters will be non-hazardous and can be recycled or discarded in a licensed municipal solid waste management facility (if they accept them).    
3) Do you recycle your used filters? To reduce the amount of waste you have to dispose of, recycle your hot-drained filters.    
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