Disposing of used motor oil: a guide

By: Kris LeSueur   |   17 Jul 2023

Performing your own oil changes can be a rewarding and cost-effective endeavor for vehicle owners. Not only does it save time and money in the long run, but it also provides an opportunity to develop a better understanding of your car. However, changing your oil is only part of the equation. Properly disposing of used motor oil is equally important, and recycling is the optimal choice for several compelling reasons.

Why should you recycle motor oil?

If you've considered or already engage in DIY oil changes, you may have heard about the importance of recycling used oil. But why is recycling so crucial? What harm could tossing it in the trash or pouring it down the drain cause? The reality is that even a single batch of oil from one oil change can have a significant impact. Here's why recycling matters:

Environmental impact

Oil has a tendency to stick to everything it comes into contact with, including water. Improperly disposing of used oil by pouring it into gutters, storm drains, or other unsuitable locations can contaminate lakes, oceans, and rivers. This contamination can harm or even kill the wildlife and plants that depend on these ecosystems. Just one oil change's worth of oil has the potential to affect up to a million gallons of water.

Legal consequences

Improperly disposing of used motor oil is illegal. Engaging in such behavior can result in fines, jail time, or being held accountable for the costs of cleanup, which can be quite expensive.

Environmental conservation

Recycling used motor oil allows it to be refined and reused indefinitely. Producing 2.5 quarts of clean, usable motor oil requires a staggering 42 gallons of crude oil. However, the same amount of clean oil can be obtained from just one gallon of previously used motor oil. Recycling is not only environmentally friendly but also helps reduce your carbon footprint.

How to recycle motor oil effectively

Recycling used motor oil is a straightforward process. Follow these steps to ensure a thorough and responsible job every time you change your oil:

  • Gather the necessary equipment:
  • Oil drain pans
  • Tarp or plastic sheet
  • Contain the oil: Lay a tarp or plastic sheet beneath your work area to capture any spills or drips. Place a suitable container, preferably one with a spout, on top of the tarp beneath your engine to catch the oil as it drains.
  • Empty the filter: Make sure to include your oil filter in the recycling process. Begin by puncturing a small hole in the dome of the filter and allow it to drain completely into the collection container along with the rest of the oil. Seal the filter in a plastic bag, as it may still contain residual oil that can be recycled.
  • Prepare the oil for transportation:Once you have finished collecting the oil, you may need to transfer it from the collection container to another suitable container for storage and transportation. Avoid using milk cartons, empty juice containers, or any random containers lying around the house. If you have the original container the oil came in, use that. Otherwise, opt for a container made of polyethylene or another plastic specifically designed for oil storage. Ensure that the storage container has never been used for other fluids, even if it was a long time ago.
  • Proper storage of used oil: Store the container of used oil in a cool, dry place where it won't be disturbed until you can deliver it to a recycling facility.

What to do with collected oil

Depending on where you live, you may be able to participate in your city's curbside recycling program for motor oil. If this option is available, be sure to research the specific packaging requirements and protocol to follow. Never dispose of a container of used motor oil in your regular recycling bin. If curbside recycling is not available in your city, you will need to locate a designated recycling center and personally drop off the used oil.

This is the responsible way of dealing with used motor oil. By doing this, you contribute to a greener tomorrow!

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