Ohio Company Offers Innovative Recycling Solution

Auto recyclers have a new option for the safe disposal of recalled airbags. 

Clean Water Environmental, a waste-management company based in Dayton, Ohio, has begun managing the destruction and recycling of the inflator portion of recalled airbag units.  

The company has been handling wastewater treatment, hazardous waste management, and industrial recycling for almost 80 years. CWE’s new airbag recycling process, according to a company press release, is innovative, environmentally friendly, and recycles nearly all materials. It also maximizes safety and helps recyclers avoid problems with long-term storage. 

“We are extremely excited to offer the automotive industry a safe, cost-effective and environmentally friendly solution for the collection and disposal of defective airbag inflators under the EPA’s guidance,” CWE’s CEO John Staton said in the same press release.  

Staton explained that CWE’s patent-pending system is compartmentally expandable and upgradable to handle significantly increased volumes with little additional requirements from a regulatory standpoint. 

 “We have been licensed to transport hazardous waste for over 30 years and are currently transporting airbag inflators,” he said. “Using a combination of our own equipment and other well-known contract carriers, we are building a nationwide transportation network in support of the collection of these units.” 

Proper airbag disposal has long been a concern for auto recyclers, but the issue has become even more critical since the Takata Airbag Recall, which began in 2014. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has called the Takata Airbag Recall “the largest and most complex safety recall in U.S. history.”  

More than 100 million airbag inflators, made by parts supplier Takata and installed in vehicles manufactured by 19 different automakers between 2006 and 2016, have been recalled because they could potentially deploy improperly and shoot metal fragments at drivers and passengers. According to the NHTSA, there have been at least 24 deaths and 300 injuries worldwide caused by these defective airbags, and the recall is expected to grow to over 150 million units. 

The NHTSA determined the cause of the problem: airbags that use ammonium nitrate-based propellent without a chemical drying agent. According to Consumer Reports, environmental moisture, high temperatures, and age can improperly inflate these airbags and even expel shrapnel. 

“We couldn’t watch the largest worldwide automotive recall in history continue to unfold and not step in to support the industry and public safety,” says CWE’s web site. “Our … system provides a solution to safely dispose of previously installed, recalled airbag inflators and help dealers and OEMs navigate the complexity of proper management.” 

ARA Executive Director Sandy Blalock agrees that the recall has had a large impact on the auto recycling industry. 

“As the airbag recall continues to impact the automotive industry and public safety, the Automotive Recycling Association is supportive of companies that innovate ways to properly destruct and recycle the airbag components,” Blalock said in CWE’s press release.  

“Given the scope and seriousness of this growing problem,” he added, “ARA cannot stress enough how important it is to be aggressive in the destruction and ensure the correct recycling process for environmental conservation.” 

Because the recalled inflators can’t be reused or safely deployed once they’re removed from vehicles, the EPA requires that they must be disposed of as hazardous waste. Auto recyclers must send them to a facility designated by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). CWE’s Dayton facility holds the required RCRA permits to accept inflators. 

In fact, CWE has held a RCRA Facility Part B permit to operate a hazardous waste Treatment Storage and Disposal Facility (TSDF) since 1995 and currently operates two Ohio-based, state-of-the-art treatment facilities, an extensive on-site analytical laboratory, and a full fleet of tank trucks and dry-freight units.  

The company says it is wholly dedicated to providing treatment, storage, disposal, recycling and transportation of hazardous and non-hazardous materials with the high level of responsibility required for their ultimate disposition. 

“Safety, compliance and nurture for the environment are at the foundation of all CWE operations,” says a CWE press release. 

For more information about how CWE can dispose of your airbags, visit, call 937-268-6501, or email 

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