Skip to main content

Salvage yards

Salvage yards (scrap yards, auto and scrap recyclers, salvage dealers, etc.) comprise many types of operations and have a range of environmental regulations to meet. This section provides information on how to comply with some of those environmental regulations.

Air pollution

Salvage yards can generate different types of air pollution that are each regulated in different ways. The types of air pollution can include: refrigerants, fugitive dust, odors, and hazardous air pollutants.


Regulated refrigerants may not be released into the air. Refrigerant recovery operations must be registered with DNR. In order to be licensed by DOT as a salvage dealer, an auto salvage yard must be registered or certify to DNR that an off-site registered recovery operation will be used to collect refrigerant prior to recycling scrap. Learn more about the DNR Refrigerant recovery program and check the DOT licensing requirements.

Hazardous air pollutants

Salvage yards may choose to melt aluminum scrap into a salable product. The melting process, also called smelting, creates hazardous air pollutants like dioxins and furans. The aluminum smelting equipment needed for that process will need to meet a federal standard for hazardous air pollutants. For more information on the federal standard, review information on the Secondary aluminum webpage.

Open burning

Open burning refers to the burning of any material outdoors without controlling pollution and includes the use of burn barrels as well as burning in unconfined areas. Burning creates health and environmental concerns and is regulated by several DNR programs. Businesses are prohibited from burning most types of waste in Wisconsin. The Open burning page has links to information on applicable regulations as well as alternative disposal methods.

Fugitive dust

"Fugitive dust" is a term used to describe any particulate matter (PM) emissions released through any means other than a stack or duct of some kind. Any business creating enough dust, smoke, or fumes to be a noticeable source of air pollution must control those emissions. The following are examples of activities that would create fugitive dust:

  • large trucks transporting materials along unpaved roads;
  • unpaved parking lots;
  • piles of materials stored on site; and
  • dry materials directed to equipment, not collected by another device—whether by baghouse, cyclone, wet scrubber, etc.

Any business that creates fugitive dust must do as much as possible to control those emissions and keep them from escaping into the environment. The following are a few suggestions based on the type of activity. Other best management practices recommended by industry experts are provided in the fact sheet Fugitive Dust Management (AM-556).

  • For roads or storage piles, this may mean using water or chemicals to prevent dust plumes. Paving roads will reduce dust. Be aware there may be storm water limits on chemicals applied to the ground for dust suppression. Storage piles can be kept within a three-sided building to minimize emissions.
  • Mechanical collection devices (i.e. cyclones and dry filters) are effective, low cost ways to control PM emissions from processing equipment. Unfortunately, higher collection efficiency in any type of equipment can often mean higher costs. For example, a baghouse can be a very high efficiency control option but is more expensive than the others.


Minimizing odors is best achieved through application of management practices. The DNR Small Business Environmental Assistance Program provides a summary of state requirements for odor control in the fact sheet Controlling Odors (SB-110).

Storm water

Storm water coming into contact with industrial activity is a potential source of runoff contamination. When storm water comes into contact with materials at recycling facilities that are stored outdoors, such as oil, gas, solvents, or metal, it can become polluted, leading to surface water and groundwater contamination. Fuel tanks, batteries, oily scrap, automotive parts, appliances, antifreeze, waste oils, leaking hydraulic lines, and shredder fluff are just a few of the potential sources of storm water contamination.

In Wisconsin, the DNR issues industrial storm water permits under the Wisconsin Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (WPDES) permit program. To address the salvage yard industry, the DNR has issued two industry-specific general industrial storm water permits, one for scrap and waste recycling and the other for automotive recycling. Having a storm water permit is also required in order to obtain a DOT salvage dealer license. Review the Industrial storm water permits page for more details. Here are the two general permits:

  • Dismantling of vehicles for parts selling and salvage (WI-S059145) - This industry-specific storm water discharge general permit covers those facilities with Standard Industrial Code (SIC) 5015 - Motor Vehicle Parts, Used. The requirements for this permit are similar to those of the Tier 1 General Industrial Permit. However, Auto Dismantling facilities have the option to participate in a privately-managed Cooperative Compliance Program (CCP) to help oversee permit compliance.
  • Recycling of scrap and waste materials (WI-S058831) - This industry-specific storm water discharge general permit covers those facilities with Standard Industrial Code (SIC) 5093 - Scrap and Waste Materials. The requirements for this permit are similar to those of the Tier 1 General Industrial Permit. Similar to the Dismantling of Vehicles Permit, this permit provides the option to participate in a privately-managed Cooperative Compliance Program (CCP) to help oversee permit compliance.

The general permits require the facility owner or operator to development and implement a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP). The owner or operator develops the SWPPP for the facility and implements Best Management Practices (BMPs) to reduce the potential for storm water contamination. BMPs focusing on pollution prevention and eliminating source areas are usually the most cost-effective way to prevent storm water contamination.

Cooperative compliance programs

The DNR, the Wisconsin Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (WISRI), and Concerned Auto Recyclers of Wisconsin (CARS) have jointly developed an innovative Cooperative Compliance Program (CCP) as a compliance option for industrial storm water permittees. As a result of this cooperative effort, the CCP option is part of each of the two general permits.

Forming a CCP and becoming a member are both voluntary. The CCP organization and its members work together to maintain environmental compliance with the general permit. The organization helps members maintain compliance by providing professional assistance and training. The CCP also audits their members and submits annual compliance reports to the DNR. Advantages of CCP membership include:

  • Specialized CCP group training sessions
  • Access to expert professional assistance regarding general permit requirements and timelines
  • Greater likelihood of compliance with the general permit requirements
  • Saves time, allowing you to focus on the business
  • No potentially costly annual chemical monitoring
  • Reduced possibility of DNR enforcement action
  • DNR staff can focus on non-CCP facilities and other storm water program priorities

To apply for a storm water permit, applicants will submit a Notice of Intent. Notices Of Intent for coverage under an industrial storm water permit must be applied for using the online e-permitting system. The e-permitting system is available for use at water permit applications. The e-permitting system does not require any special software and is completely web-based and available using any internet browser. If the DNR determines that coverage under the general permit is appropriate, coverage will be conferred by a letter from the DNR.

The DNR will confer coverage to your facility under the appropriate general permit based upon the type of facility you operate. The applicable parts of the general permit to your facility will depend on whether or not you choose to participate and become a member of a CCP. Therefore, you should review the general permit carefully to decide whether you want to join a CCP or proceed on your own to meet the requirements of the general permit. Again, joining a CCP is voluntary, but has the advantages previously listed.

Questions regarding the storm water program can be directed to the DNR storm water staff person for the county in which the facility is located.


Before disposing of any unused materials from processing, it is important to determine whether the material is hazardous waste and then properly manage the waste going forward. Start with the SBEAP hazardous waste page and learn more about hazardous waste management.

Businesses are not generally allowed to use burning as a means of waste disposal. Read Can my business burn waste? for more information.

The following are types of wastes possibly found at salvage yards that have special practices to follow for proper disposal.

For any other wastes, review Waste Determinations and Recordkeeping (WA-1152) before disposing.


What is a spill?

Any discharge of a hazardous substance that adversely impacts, or threatens to adversely impact, human health, welfare or the environment which requires an immediate response is considered a spill. This includes if the substance is spilled, leaked, pumped, poured, emitted, dumped or otherwise released to land, air or water. The What is a spill? page has more information on how to determine if a spill has occurred.

Spill response and reporting

It's important to note that all spills must be contained and cleaned up promptly and the spilled materials must be properly disposed of. In addition, spills over certain quantities must be reported to DNR and may even require federal reporting. DNR has a 24-hour emergency spills helpline. Report spills immediately to 1-800-943-0003. DNR will let you know if additional steps need to be taken. Visit the Spills page for information on how spills can be prevented as well as what actions to take if they do occur. Also see the fact sheet Immediate Reporting Required for Hazardous Substance Spills (RR-560) for more reporting details.

Existing contamination

Spills can sometimes go unnoticed and the resulting contamination is discovered later. Even if the original release happened a long time ago, it is still required that you report this information to the DNR as soon as it is discovered. For these types of historic spills and contamination which do not pose an emergency situation, you should use the Notification for Hazardous Substance Discharge (4400-225) form to report. DNR will determine the next steps. You can find this form, as well as information on emergency reporting on How to report a spill.


General permit for salvage yard storage areas

The Petroleum Contaminated Water General Permit (WI-0046531-06-0) covers storage areas for scrap and waste materials such as salvage yards if there is a significant contamination of storm water with petroleum products to surface water or groundwater.

Go to Wastewater general permits. Scroll down the list of general permits in alphabetical order until you reach "Petroleum Contaminated Water" and click on the permit title. This opens a list of documents related to the permit. Submit the Notice of Intent if your site is not already covered under this general permit but otherwise meets the applicability criteria in Section 1 of the permit. However, if your facility has any discharges that are not covered by this general permit, other permits will be needed - read Section 1.3 for a list of discharges NOT covered.

The Wastewater general permits page also has information about the process of becoming covered by the permit, permit fees, and reporting requirements.

Additional resources