How To Dispose Of Coolant

How To Dispose Of Coolant

Whether changing your vehicle’s coolant as part of regular maintenance or repairing a leak, there will come a time when old antifreeze needs to be disposed of properly. Coolant contains ethylene glycol or propylene glycol, chemicals that are considered hazardous if not handled correctly.

Luckily, environmentally-safe coolant disposal options exist. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the latest laws and best practices for properly disposing of used coolant in 2024 and beyond. We’ll cover:

  • Hazards of improper disposal
  • Identifying your coolant type
  • Home disposal methods
  • Options for larger commercial quantities
  • Tips for pouring or draining fluids safely
  • Addressing spills immediately

By following the steps outlined here, you can dispose of automotive coolant in a way that protects both the environment and your own health. Let’s get started protecting our planet, one drained radiator at a time.

Common Places People Illegally Dump Coolant

  • Househoald Drains/Sinks – As mentioned, residential plumbing ends at a wastewater treatment plant not equipped to handle glycol toxicity.
  • Storm Drains – Anything poured down outdoor storm basins eventually washes directly into streams, rivers, lakes or oceans untreated.
  • Back of Pickup Trucks – Coolant containers transported loose can spill unnoticed onto roads during transit.
  • Vacant Land/Fields – Large volumes dumped or buried leach into soils and groundwater over time.
  • Dumpsters – Unless marked as accepting hazardous wastes, standard trash bins send material to landfills not fitted for automotive fluids.
  • Portable Toilets – Often used at race tracks or events, these holds absorb glycol that is then land applied.
Common Places People Illegally Dump Coolant
Common Places People Illegally Dump Coolant

Hazards of Improper Coolant Disposal

It’s important to understand why coolant can’t simply be tossed in the trash or poured down the drain. Glycol-based automotive antifreeze contains ethylene glycol or propylene glycol, which are toxic if ingested by humans or animals.

Contaminates groundwater sources through septic or sewer systems, threatening drinking water. Toxic to aquatic life even in small concentrations, damaging ecosystems in lakes, streams and oceans. Can sicken or kill animals who drink antifreeze residues left on driveways or absorb it through their skin/fur.

On contact with eyes, skin and if inhaled, fumes may cause irritation, rashes or breathing issues in humans. Breaks down very slowly in the environment. Traces can linger for years, continuing to leak into the water table.

Hazards Of Improper Coolant Disposal
Hazards of Improper Coolant Disposal

Identifying Your Coolant Type

Knowing whether you have ethylene glycol or propylene glycol-based antifreeze is important for finding the right disposal option. Here are some quick identification tips:

  • Check the coolant reservoir cap or owner’s manual for specifications.
  • Appearance – ethylene glycol is usually green or orange, while propylene formulations appear yellow-green.
  • Read the brand name on pre-mixed jugs purchased from parts stores.
  • Use test strips sold at auto shops to determine glycol type and concentration level.

Armed with this information, recycling facilities can properly process coolant residues. Now let’s look at environmentally-conscious home disposal methods.

Identifying Your Coolant Type
Identifying Your Coolant Type

Safe Home Disposal of Small Coolant Quantities

For incidental fluid changes generating only small amounts (under 5 gallons), here are compliant self-service options:

  • Absorb with an oil-absorbing material like kitty litter or oil dry. Once solidified, dispose bags in regular trash.
  • Use a pump bottle to transfer coolant to empty antifreeze containers which can be capped and disposed at a participating recycling center.
  • Mix coolant with saw dust, dirt or used coffee grounds until it forms a paste consistency. Allow to fully harden before garbage disposal.
  • Contact your local municipal waste removal services, some may provide household hazardous waste collection days you can utilize.

For any spills, absorbent materials should always be on hand to contain and clean up safely without harming local ecosystems.

Safe Home Disposal Of Small Coolant Quantitiessafe Home Disposal Of Small Coolant Quantities
Safe Home Disposal of Small Coolant Quantities

Commercial & Bulk Disposal Guidelines

Larger amounts generated from mechanic shops, fleet maintenance or construction require following EPA regulations. Here are the steps:

Contact local environmental/waste authorities for guidelines on proper disposal as both a generator and transporter of hazardous materials. Use only licensed waste haulers and facilities permitted to receive coolant. Consider reverse distribution take-back programs.

Clearly label and seal all coolant residues in durable, leak-proof containers with the words “used antifreeze.” Provide disposal paperwork to the receiving facility tracking pickup address, types/quantities of wastes and transporter licensing data.

Commercial &Amp; Bulk Disposal Guidelines
Commercial & Bulk Disposal Guidelines

Safely Pouring or Draining Automotive Fluids

No matter the disposal method, fluid transfer requires caution. Protect yourself and the environment by:

Working in a well-ventilated area outside or near an open door/window for fresh air flow. Suiting up in rubber gloves, splash goggles and old clothing in case of spills on skin or clothing. Using a drain pan to catch fluids poured from a radiator or reservoir instead of directly on the ground.

Slowly opening petcocks or drain bolts to prevent sudden geysers, and having rags ready to wipe up drips immediately. For vehicles, run the engine briefly before draining if coolant is still warm to avoid burns from pressurized systems.

Mix with Absorbent Before Trash

Some communities allow small amounts of used coolant to be disposed of in regular household trash – but only after first mixing with an absorbent material like cat litter or kitty litter.

This soaks up any liquid before sealing in double plastic bags to prevent leaks. Check local regulations, as HHW facilities are always a safer bet. Do not add coolant directly to an outside garbage can or dumpster.

Take to a Garage or Auto Parts Store

Many auto repair shops, auto parts retailers and quick lube facilities now accept small quantities of used antifreeze for recycling from DIYers. Call ahead to ask about their program details and volume limits. This remains preferable to dumping down drains.

DIY Coolant Disposal Mistakes to Avoid

Pouring down any drain inside or outside the home. As discussed, drains lead directly to local wastewater facilities not equipped for toxic glycol treatment.

Disposing in trash cans, whether household bins or commercial dumpsters. Coolants are classified as hazardous waste and landfills may face contamination issues.

  • Storing indefinitely as “I’ll get rid of it later.” Over time, fluids degrade containers and pose household safety risks if there are spills or leaks.
  • Pouring on the ground, in open fields or wooded areas can result in costly clean-up fines for polluting lands and leaching into soils or groundwater tables over the long run.

Attempting to dilute large volumes by adding water before disposal. Dilution is not a safe solution – glycol toxicity levels may still prove harmful environmentally even when diluted.

Diy Coolant Disposal Mistakes To Avoid
DIY Coolant Disposal Mistakes to Avoid

Disposing of Large Coolant Quantities

For draining or flushing whole cooling systems that generate several gallons of used coolant at once, further options may apply:

Contact a licensed hazardous waste hauler or environmental contractor. They can properly containerize and transport larger volumes for disposal within EPA guidelines.

Some salvage yards and auto recyclers may accept coolant in bulk from commercial garages for recycling. Call ahead about requirements and costs.

Check if your local waste authority operates used oil dropoff centers. Larger centers may have bulk antifreeze storage procedures in place as an alternative to residential HHW facilities.

Addressing Fluid Spills Quickly and Safely

Even with precautions, small spills do happen from time to time. Knowing how to appropriately address them is important:

For body contact, flush affected area with copious water and remove contaminated clothing. Stop spread by laying down absorbent pads, sandbox sand or dirt to soak up liquids.

Disinfect the spill area with soapy water after complete cleanup to destroy residues. Contain spills entering drains immediately with absorbents, then rinse thoroughly before residues reach sewer/septic.

Report significant spills to local authorities. They can advise proper cleanup for major releases into public areas.

Potential Risks of Improper Coolant Disposal:

Groundwater contamination – Ethylene glycol is water soluble and can leach into soil/aquifers. Even small amounts pose risks.

Toxicity to animals/wildlife – Ethylene glycol is sweet-tasting and ingestion can prove fatal to pets, wildlife, fish, etc.

Effects on vegetation – Spilled coolant can render soil infertile and harm or kill nearby plants as it spreads.

Fines and legal penalties – Municipal codes have substantial fees/jail time for illegal hazardous waste disposal.

Environmental clean-up costs – Large spills may require expensive remediation efforts to restore affected land/water sources.

Coolant Formulations:

  • Ethylene Glycol – Conventional type, used in most passenger cars and light trucks.
  • Propylene Glycol – Less toxic alternative increasingly used in hybrid/electric vehicles.
  • Glycerin/Silicate/Organic Acid Technologies – Newer “green” coolants using renewable/non-toxic ingredients.
  • Supplemental Additives – Many coolants contain rust/corrosion inhibitors, dye, and other proprietary additives.
  • Concentration Levels – Premixes are around 50-60% glycol and 40-50% water by volume.

Upcoming Regulations regarding coolant disposal

California SB1394 now restricts ethylene glycol content over 10% for automotive/light duty use. EPA proposing ethylene glycol as toxic release inventory substance for industrial sites.

EU requiring coolant producers to implement safer formulations and closed-loop recycling. Some cities preventing ethylene glycol coolant sales without proper disposal instructions.

More jurisdictions expected to mirror California’s ruling and further encourage non-toxic coolants.


How should you dispose of engine coolant?

Engine coolant should be disposed of through approved recycling services, not dumped down drains or on the ground. Use auto part stores, hazardous waste collection days, or licensed facilities that treat and dispose of it properly to avoid pollution.

Does AutoZone take back coolant?

Many major auto parts stores like AutoZone accept small amounts of used coolant for recycling from customers. Be sure to call your local store first to confirm what fluids they accept and any guidelines, as policies can vary between locations.

Is coolant a hazardous waste?

Yes, automotive coolant is considered hazardous waste due to its ethylene glycol or propylene glycol contents, which can pollute water sources and harm wildlife or pets if released untreated. Its toxicity levels require approved processing by licensed treatment facilities.

How do I dispose of antifreeze in New York?

New York residents can dispose of antifreeze or coolant through municipal household hazardous waste collection days, many auto parts retailers, or authorized recycling centers near them. Call your local waste authority for schedules and details on proper disposal in your area as regulations must be followed.


In conclusion, proper disposal of used automotive coolant is important to protect both public health and the environment. Coolant contains ethylene glycol and other compounds that can be hazardous if not handled correctly.

Dumping coolant down residential drains or on the ground is illegal due to the toxic risks it poses. The best practices discussed in this guide help ensure coolant waste is disposed of safely and legally. Individual drivers should take advantage of household hazardous

waste collection days or recycling facilities approved for automotive fluids. Larger commercial generators need to adhere to strict EPA regulations as well. Following these guidelines prevents contaminating water sources and helps coolant be managed responsibly through its lifecycle.

The recycling process also allows the glycol to be fully reconditioned for reuse, conserving natural resources and reducing manufacturing impacts. With a little research, anyone can easily locate approved disposal options in their local area.

Proper coolant disposal protects the environment long-term while avoiding hefty fines for improper dumping. With increased public awareness of these issues, our communities can work together to keep harmful chemicals out of the places we live and surrounding ecosystems.

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