The Importance of Used Motor Oil Recycling

To keep your vehicle running at its best, change the motor oil and fluids according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. With regular maintenance comes a responsibility of knowing how and where to properly recycle used motor oil and associated vehicle fluids.

Nationally, there are more than 12,000 community-based used oil collection locations provided by either your local government or private businesses such as auto parts stores or service stations.

According to the American Petroleum Institute (API), more than 600 million gallons of motor oil is purchased each year. More than half of this amount – 345 million gallons to be exact – is purchased by the “do-it-yourself” vehicle owners.

As a DIY oil changer, you can have a positive impact on your vehicle and local environment by properly handling and recycling your used motor oil and vehicle fluids.

What is Used Motor Oil?

According to the U.S. EPA, used motor oil is any petroleum-based or synthetic oil that has been used for vehicle lubrication. During normal usage, motor oil becomes contaminated with various impurities such as dirt, water, chemicals or metals from your engine.

Some government jurisdictions classify used motor oil as hazardous. It may contain additives (e.g. rust inhibitors), contaminants (e.g. heavy metals), potentially carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic compounds (from the fuel combustion process) or glycol leaked from the cooling system.

Because of these “impurities,” used motor oil should be handled with care and disposed of correctly to ensure the safety of the local community, environment and waterways.

Oil is a Valuable Resource?

Yes. And we’re not talking just monetarily. Oil can be reused or recycled through reconditioning, reprocessing or re-refining.

These reuse/recycling efforts can be sustainable and help to…

  • Conserve natural resources
  • Protect the environment
  • Reuse an existing resource
  • Save energy
  • Save money

In addition, used motor oil is a valuable energy resource. A large portion of the used motor oil collected is reprocessed into fuel that is burned in furnaces, turbines, power plants and manufacturing facilities to provide heat and electricity.

To put this into perspective, 2 gallons of used motor oil can generate enough electricity to…

  • Power the average home for one day
  • Cook 48 meals in a microwave oven
  • Blow dry a person’s hair at least 216 times
  • Vacuum a house for 15 months
  • Watch television for 7.5 days straight

Oil and Water Don’t Mix

Proper recycling ensures that used motor oil does not make its way into local surface and groundwater resources. Improperly disposed oil can quickly pollute large amounts of water.

One gallon of motor oil can:

  • Create an oil slick on surface water up to 8 acres in size
  • Contaminate 1 million gallons of freshwater (one year’s supply of water for 50 people)
  • Render a 4-acre area of soil unusable for planting for decades

In addition, used oil is insoluble, slow to degrade and very sticky, which poses a health threat to humans, plants, animals and the environment.

What is Improper Disposal?

If you are pouring used motor oil on the ground, into a storm drain or throwing it in your trash can (even in a sealed container), you are improperly disposing of your used motor oil. According to the U.S. EPA, more than 40 percent of our nation’s oil pollution comes from the improper disposal of used motor oil by DIY-ers.