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Environmental Information for New York and New Jersey Local Governments Regarding Abandoned Vehicles Destroyed or Damaged by Hurricane Sandy

Many New York and New Jersey communities are dealing with numerous abandoned, destroyed or heavily damaged vehicles in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. A key component of disaster debris management is reuse and recycling. Due to the potentially large volumes of material produced in a natural disaster, recycling and reuse of damaged vehicles will lessen the burden on disposal facilities, cut costs and provide valuable material resources. If conducted responsibly, vehicle recycling not only saves landfill space but also helps to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions and conserves natural resources. 


This document addresses environmental issues that local communities should address in managing these vehicles. This document does not address issues concerning vehicle title, registration or insurance issues, nor matters concerning notification of vehicle owners.


Information on EPA’s response to the storm can be found at http://www.epa.gov/sandy/.  Additional information for communities managing natural disaster debris is available in EPA’s “Planning for Natural Disaster Debris” at http://www.epa.gov/waste/conserve/imr/cdm/pubs/pndd.pdf.


Environmental Factors


Vehicles damaged during natural disasters present numerous environmental issues. Fluids such as gasoline, diesel fuel oil, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, brake fluid, washer fluid, gear oil,

battery acid, and solvents can contaminate waterways through direct releases from the vehicles or releases into gutters.  Other hazardous and solid wastes include mercury from switches, lamps, and electronic devices (navigation aids, CD players); lead from lead-acid batteries, wheel weights, battery cable ends; CFCs and other refrigerants; sodium azide from air bags; tires; PCBs from foam rubber, carpets and plastic components; and metals such as aluminum, cadmium, copper, iron, and zinc; and transmission and oil filters.  These environmental hazards could contaminate waterways and provide routes of exposure to humans through direct contact, drinking water, and the ambient air. Consequently, it is important that abandoned vehicles or other vehicles being discarded or disposed of be handled appropriately so as to avoid creating environmental harm.




There are established business facilities that handle discarded vehicles, ensure the proper management of hazardous materials contained in them, and conduct appropriate recycling activities.  At such facilities, the vehicles that have been deemed appropriate for scrap are dismantled and decontaminated as necessary. The vehicles should be managed in accordance with all applicable regulations and policies.  This includes safely removing and recovering gasoline fuel, diesel fuel, refrigerants, lubricating oils, mercury switches, lead acid batteries, brake and transmission fluids, antifreeze, tires, and electronics, such as radios.  This recovered material should be separated from the vehicles being readied for scrap and be reused or recycled, as appropriate.  The vehicles may then be sent to metal scrapping facilities where the items are fed into a metal shredder and magnets are used to recover remaining recyclable material.


For locations of the nearest automobile recycling or dismantling/disposal center, contact:


Automotive Recycler’s Association – NY

194 Washington Avenue

Suite 305

Albany, NY 12110

Phone: 800 940-7278



Automotive Recycler’s Association – NJ

14 North Lakeside Drive West

Medford, NJ 08055

Phone:  609 714-2339   





Another method sometimes used with old vehicles is donation of the vehicles to appropriate organizations. The City of New York maintains a website dealing with such donations and listing organizations that accept such vehicles. See

http://www.nyc.gov/html/nycwasteless/html/resources/prod_serv_auto_cars.shtml. As indicated by the city, vehicles do not necessarily need to be in running order to be donated.


In addition, the American Red Cross has a Vehicle Donation and Resale Center serving NY, NJ and other states. For information, call toll free 1-877-332-7677 or see




Note: This document contains information for local governments to aid in response to Hurricane Sandy with respect to motor vehicles.  The document is not a rule or regulation, and does not substitute for any law, rule or regulation or any other legally binding requirement.  The listing of information sources for vehicle donations or recycling is not an endorsement of any vendor or of any vendor's qualifications.


Local governments in New York and New Jersey should also consult any information made available by the State of New York or State of New Jersey, as appropriate, regarding the handling of abandoned vehicles.


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