Slick Tips On How To Recycle Used Motor Oil

Get Lubed Up!

Only Rain ... Down the Drain

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Okay, now that we have your attention…

You’ve probably seen a picture of a bird or fish spray-painted near a drainage grate in your community, along with a reminder to not dump oil. When disposed of irresponsibly, used motor oil ends up contaminating soil, groundwater and even drinking water- yuck. It is against the law in many states to dispose of oil in drainage systems for good reasons. After all, according to the American Petroleum Institute, one gallon of motor oil can contaminate 1 million gallons of water.

Motor oil doesn’t wear out or lose its lubey-ness. Instead, it gets dirty. Have you seen how dark the oil in your car gets after several thousand miles? When you need an oil change or need to recycle used motor or engine oil, try and go to a locally-owned service station. Make sure that any oil you bring to a service station will be handled responsibly. For more information, read about this class-action lawsuit brought against Jiffy Lube because they charged misleading disposal fees for oil. Be aware that oil change facilities are not required to charge an oil disposal fee by any federal, state or local government agency. In fact, places can make money by selling the used oil to refineries.

Ask Questions

A smart way to recycle motor oil is to call your city or check out their website. You may find that it is as easy as leaving your oil for collection with your curbside recyclables. If this is the case in your city, leave your used oil in any container with a secure cap that won’t leak or ignite. If you’re only finding a bunch of auto places that will take your oil, ask them specifically where it goes after that. The point is- never stop asking questions!

That said, there are so many useful ways to reclaim used motor oil once it’s recycled. The oil first has to go through a process similar to refining crude oil, or re-refining it, so to speak. It is then turned into a base stock for lubricating oil. Read about a place that re-refines oil here, at Evergreen Oil, Inc. It’s the only oil re-refining operation in the western U.S., and reclaims three quarts of every gallon they treat.

Re-refined Oil

Nightmare

Creative Commons License photo credit: Garrette

Easily use re-refined oil in your car; it’s reported that there isn’t even any difference in quality in re-refined oil as opposed to new, or what is referred to as virgin, crude oil. Before buying a re-refined oil product, check to see that it has the little American Petroleum Institute (API) service symbol. Purchasing re-refined oil, just like purchasing any used or recycled product, increases consumer demand for that product. This in turn decreases demand for natural resources and saves energy.

For a good example, Firestone stores in the greater Portland, Oregon, area were the first to try out a new program using recycled motor oil for their oil changes. Now that’s a nice change! This process uses up to 85% less energy to produce and only 1/10th of the feedstock compared to virgin crude.

The bottom line with a lot of these motor oil recycling tips is, “Think before you dump!” Okay that had bad connotations, but still. A common question that comes up is what if your used oil accidentally gets contaminated with other automotive stuff, like antifreeze or something similar? Then the category changes from recyclable to a household hazardous waste and definitely requires proper disposal. Find links to every state’s web sites related to hazardous waste programs.

What Does Convenience Mean To You?

Finally, here is a list from an EPA document entitled, “Willingness of Consumers to Recycle Used Oil Given Various Incentives.” As if avoiding the pollution of drinking water wasn’t enough, here are ways that recycling motor oil becomes easier for people:

  • If they had a special container to hold oil
  • If a collection center existed where oil was purchased
  • If oil were picked up at their homes
  • If service stations nearby would take used oil
  • If they could take it to where they shop for pickup
  • If they could take it to a convenient place

A large majority of the public says it would be willing to recycle oil properly if it were convenient.

This list is from 1989. If the bottom line for most people then was convenience, in over 20 years, do you think people have learned that recycling motor oil properly is worth just a little bit of effort? What do you think?

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