How to Recycle Used Engine Oil and 5 Facts You Should Know about Its Impact

Used oil is exactly what you’d think it is: Any synthetic or petroleum-based oil that has been used to power a car, lawnmower, and any other machine or heavy equipment. During normal use, oil gets mixed with various impurities, including dirt, water, metal scrapings, or chemicals. That’s why, in time, the oil’s performance drops significantly. But what is the proper recycling practice when it comes to used engine oil?

Handling Used Engine Oil at Home

Used oil must be replaced with virgin oil – or re-refined oil that can now be used again. If you change your own oil at home, you should be aware of the importance of recycling or disposing of it properly. After all, used oil from one oil change can end up contaminating one million gallons of fresh water – the equivalent of a year’s supply for fifty people!

Below are some important tips that will help you capture the used oil in a way that doesn’t harm the environment in the process:

  • Be particularly careful when draining the crankcase and removing the filter. Make sure you catch every drop of used oil and you prevent it from being washed away into a storm drain, a stream, or in the nearby soil.
  • Use a clean plastic or metal container with a tightly sealed lid to collect the used engine oil. The plastic containers should be made of a suitable plastic (such as polyethylene). Milk jugs are not a proper container for used oil. Instead, consider reusing the original container of the motor oil.
  • Avoid mixing the oil with household chemicals or other automotive fluids (i.e. antifreeze, differential oil, paint, solvent, etc.). Do not store used oil in the containers that previously held these kinds of chemicals.

What to Do with Used Motor Oil

Are you a DIY person? If you change your car’s oil at home, take these key facts into consideration. First of all, used engine oil is persistent, insoluble, and can contain heavy metals and toxic chemicals. It’s also very slow to degrade, which means it’s a major source of pollution and contamination of waterways.

One of the biggest environmental issues is the fact that used oil sticks to everything from bird feathers to beach sand. Therefore, the fact that you recycle your oil is a great help for the environment. On average, about four million people in the U.S. reuse motor oil as a lubricant for various equipment or take it to a recycling center.

Check with local waste collectors, auto maintenance facilities, and government waste officials. They can give you information on when and where you can recycle your used oil (Earth911 can help you locate a drop-off point in your area). Also, don’t forget to also drain and recycle the used oil filters. The used oil collection centers will usually accept filters as well.

Why Recycle Used Oil?

Recycling and reusing used motor oil is better than disposing of it – no matter how proper the disposal method is. It also holds great environmental benefits. Used engine oil from cars, boats, motorcycles, lawn mowers and farm equipment can be reused or re-refined. It can also be processed into fuel oils, or used as raw material in the petroleum industry.

Not being careful when changing your car’s oil can result in pollution of the environment. At the same time, local waste management authorities and car shops also have the responsibility of properly managing oil waste and preventing it from contaminating the environment. Similar waste concerns apply to used oil filters.

Here are some of the many reasons to recycle used oil:

  • Motor oil just gets dirty—it does not wear out—which is why recycling it saves a valuable resource.
  • Recycling engine oil keeps it away from water sources and soil, preventing pollution.
  • Producing a gallon of re-refined base stock requires less energy than producing a base stock from crude oil.
  • One gallon of used motor oil provides 2.5 quarts of lubricating oil; the same amount is produced from 42 gallons of crude oil.

Facts about Motor Oil

Some auto shops will recommend you to get all motor oils replaced at each service interval. But is this really the case in reality? We hope to help clarify some things for you with top ten facts about motor oils and their impact on the environment.

  1. Motor oils are more than engine oils. Several mechanical components use their respective motor oil, including brakes and transmission. Make sure you also replace them as needed.
  2. There are three types of motor oils: mineral/regular, semi-synthetic and synthetic. Check the SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) international rating so it matches that of the vehicle as recommended by the car maker.
  3. As a consequence of its chemical composition – which includes several toxic chemicals – used motor oil is a very dangerous polluting agent.
  4. According to the ‘Dark Oil Myth,’ partially dark motor oil indicates the need for an oil change. However, that’s not the case. You should have the oil replaced at the right interval, either based on the kilometers you have covered, or because of sheer time lapse.
  5. Make sure you replace the filters while getting motor oil changed. Keeping them clean is vital, given that they protect the oil against impurities.

Best Oil Change Practices

  1. Replacing motor oils and service intervals vary from one mechanic to another. Therefore, you’re better off referring to your car’s owner’s manual than consulting a mechanic.
  2. Motor oils for different components feature different viscosity and ratings. In case you change them yourself, make sure you use with extreme care.
  3. Don’t get the motor oil changed too frequently; it won’t do you and the engine any good. Changing the oil should always benefit the vehicle, not the pocket of the mechanic. Non-synthetic oils, for instance, should not be replaced sooner than a 5000 km interval.
  4. Changing the oil and the oil filter can be quite tricky with some of today’s car designs and equipment. You might need special tools, depending on the car you have. In some cases, you may have to remove other components from the engine bay to access the oil filter. Therefore, inexperienced drivers should best leave the job to the professionals.
  5. High engine speeds will induce more stress on various vehicle components. These cars may need their motor oils checked and replaced more often.
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William E. Eubanks

I'm one of the main writers on the site; mostly dealing with environmental news and ways to live green. My goal is to educate others about this great planet, and the ways we can help to protect it.

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