How to Recycle Motor Oil & Filters

Fun fact: Earth911 originally started as a nationwide directory for where to recycle motor oil and filters, so we think recycling these products is pretty important. This guide is sponsored by ExxonMobil.

Why Recycle Motor Oil & Filters

  • According to the EPA, the used oil from one DIY oil change can contaminate 1 million gallons of water if dumped into a storm drain.
  • Motor oil gets dirty while powering your engine, but these elements can be removed infinitely when oil is re-refined.
  • It requires less energy to make a gallon of re-refined oil than crude oil, and a gallon of used oil offers 2.5 quarts of lubricating oil, equal to 42 gallons of crude oil.
  • Oil filters are comprised mostly of steel, which is the most commonly recycled material in the world.

Motor Oil  & Filter Recycling Preparation

  1. When draining motor oil from your car or other vehicles, make sure to put a container underneath to collect all oil. You may also want to put a sheet or tarp under the container.
  2. Use a secure container for collecting motor oil with a top that seals.
  3. Do not mix in any other car fluids like antifreeze or brake fluid.
  4. If you’re collecting oil over time, note that most facilities will not accept more than 5 gallons at one time.
  5. Use a screwdriver to puncture the dome of your used oil filter, then turn it upside down and let it drain into the motor oil container overnight.
  6. Put your oil filter in a plastic bag once it is fully drained.
  7. Take your oil and filter to a collection center for recycling.

Find a drop-off location for motor oil and filters near you by entering your ZIP Code in Earth911’s Recycling Directory.

Find Recycling Guides for Other Materials

Frequent Used Motor Oil & Filters Recycling Questions

Can I recycle used motor oil and filters in my curbside recycling program?

In some cities (mostly in California), you can recycle motor oil and filters at the curb. However, there will be packaging requirements, and you won’t put them in your recycling bin/cart. In general, you should expect that if you’re looking to get rid of oil, you’ll likely need to transport it to a recycling center.

Is motor oil considered hazardous?

The Code of Federal Regulations specifically names used motor oil as an exception to household hazardous waste (HHW) requirements as long as it hasn’t been mixed with other hazardous liquids. This makes it much easier for retailers to collect motor oil from the public and make sure it is properly recycled.

However, your state may have specific standards regarding the classification of used motor oil. Contact your state department of environmental quality to learn more.

Are motor oil containers recyclable?

By motor oil containers, we mean the bottle the oil originally came in when you purchased it. Most motor oil containers are made of high-density polyethylene (HDPE, or #2 plastic), a highly recyclable plastic resin. However, motor oil containers are not food-grade plastic, which limits the recycling market. As a result, some recyclers will not accept them.

Where can I take my oil for recycling?

Most retailers that sell motor oil, including Advance Auto, AutoZone, O’Reilly Auto and Walmart Tire & Lube Express, will accept motor oil for recycling. Most service stations will also accept oil, provided it is clean. Your state may also maintain a list of certified oil collection facilities, and your community may have established drop-off sites.

How clean does my oil need to be in order to be recycled?

Used motor oil will have all sorts of particles, including ground-up bits of the engine, water and dust. The darker the color of the oil, the more necessary it is for an oil change. Luckily, as long as you aren’t mixing in other fluids, all motor oil from your vehicles should be accepted for recycling.

Do I need to change my filter with every DIY oil change or can I reuse it?

The answer to this depends on your car and how you drive. Regardless of how often you change your filter, you should always recycle the old one when replaced.

What is an ABOP collection facility?

ABOP stands for Antifreeze, Batteries, Oil, Paint — the types of materials accepted at these centers. These are all recyclable materials that are often not accepted at household hazardous waste (HHW) facilities, so ABOP sites provide alternative collection. They will often accept oil filters as well.

Are there any states that require motor oil/filter recycling?

Motor oil is banned from landfills in 38 states and the District of Columbia, making it second behind only car batteries in the number of U.S. states that require its recycling. Oil filters are currently banned from landfills in North Carolina and Wisconsin.

How are motor oil and filters recycled?

Recycling motor oil involves removing any of the impurities, like pieces of the engine and water, in a process known as reconditioning. Additives can then be added so the oil can be burned as fuel.

Oil filters are crushed into small pieces and heated in order to remove any remaining oil, which is collected and recycled. The filters are then shredded and sold as scrap metal.

What is re-refined motor oil?

Re-refining takes the motor oil recycling process one step further by removing all impurities from the used oil. The re-refining strips any additives and then goes through the same process as refining crude oil. Re-refined oil must be qualified by the American Petroleum Institute using the same standards as crude oil before it is repackaged and sold to consumers and businesses.

Can I make money recycling motor oil and filters?

In some cases, yes. In California, you can make 40 cents per gallon if you bring your oil to a collection facility.

Many scrap metal recyclers will accept oil filters if they have been properly drained and pay you by the pound.

Additional Reading