How to Properly Dispose of Motor Oil

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Motor oil is used to lubricate engines, and many people with cars know this. It also provides protection from wear, maintains viscosity through different temperatures, prevents acid buildup, and cleans your engine’s components.

According to the AAA, most engines require an oil change every 5,000 to 7,500 miles. While motor oil is mostly composed of oil, it contains other harmful additives. Therefore, disposing of old motor oil down the drain or in your household garbage can harm human health as it may contain toxic chemicals and heavy metals. Here’s what you need to know.

How Harmful is Improper Motor Oil Disposal?

Motor Oil changing
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Automotive fluids like old oil are a huge pollution problem. Used motor oil gathers lots of toxic waste including lead, cadmium, chromium, arsenic, and more as it runs through engines and transmissions. If people do not dispose of it properly, these contaminants end up in the environment, where they harm plants, animals, and humans.

Oil contamination is a serious problem that can have far-reaching consequences. When oil is dumped into regular garbage bins, it ends up in landfills. It can seep into the soil and contaminate groundwater. This puts plant and animal populations at risk and human communities relying on clean water sources.

British Columbia Used Oil Management Association states that “a single drop of used motor oil can contaminate a million drops of water.” And according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “used oil from one oil change can contaminate a year’s supply of fresh water for 50 people!”

Can Motor Oil be Recycled?

The most effective way to avoid polluting the environment and comply with disposal regulations is to recycle your used motor oil. The recycling process cleans and removes any impurities from the oil so it can be safely used as fuel again. Used oil filters are usually crushed and recycled into scrap metal.

According to Family Handy Man, recycling your used motor oil is not only good for the environment but also incredibly energy-efficient. Re-refining creates the same amount of engine-ready product from only one gallon of used oil instead of 42 gallons of crude oil.

How to Properly Dispose of Motor Oil

Use these few steps to dispose of your motor oil properly.

Step 1: Contain All Oil

Positioning a drip oil pan with a spout underneath the engine’s drainage point helps avoid mess. It is recommended to lay down a tarp or an absorbent sheet first, then catch the oil in the container as it drains.

Step 2: Don’t Forget the Oil Filter

Don’t forget your oil filters when changing your motor oil! To drain the filter, make a small hole and let the vehicle’s oil drip into your pan. Afterward, put the filter in a plastic bag.

Step 3: Move to a Leak-Proof Container

While some drip oil pans come with a seal, others do not. If yours does not have a seal, you will need to pour the oil into a different container that can safely be transported. You must use the right kind of container. So, it does not leak while in transit.

A good option is to use the original container that the oil came in. If that’s not available, choose one made of polyethylene instead.

Step 4: Don’t Mix

Never mix used oil with other liquids – this will make it unrecyclable. This includes antifreeze, brake fluids, and water. Additionally, use a storage container that has never held any other type of liquid.

Step 5: Store Used Motor Oil

Store your sealed, used motor oil container in a dry, cool place where it won’t be disturbed until you can take it to an oil recycling facility.

Where to Take Your Used Motor Oil?

You can take your used motor oil to many different places for recycling. For example, most stores that sell motor oil, such as Autozone, Advanced Auto, O’Reilly Auto, and Walmart, will accept it.

Service stations with recycling programs will typically accept your used motor oil as long as it is clean. If not, there are usually used oil collection sites close by that will be happy to take it off your hands. A toxic waste disposal center may be tough to track down in more rural areas.

If you want to recycle your oil properly, use Earth911’s recycle oil feature to find a drop-off location close to you. Improperly disposing of oil can cause devastating environmental damage, so always take recycling centers.

Why You Must Recycle it?

Although it may not seem like much, oil from just one car change can pollute nearly 1.5 million gallons of water, according to the U.S Environmental Protection Agency. Furthermore, used oils often contain harmful chemicals and metals that could negatively impact human and animal health if ingested.

Recycled oil is reused that has gone through a specific process to make it useable for vehicles again. Although you might not know it, recycled oil can outperform virgin oil in some situations, according to EPA lab testing. Not only does this method keep used oil out of the environment, but it also significantly lowers the demand for new oil production.

It takes 42 gallons of crude oil to refine virgin motor oil but only one gallon of used oil creates the same amount of engine-ready product through re-refining. Re-refining also uses less energy overall.

The Bottom Line

At some point, everyone who owns a car will have to think about what they’ll do with the used motor oil. If you’re due for an oil change or if your engine is leaking, keep our advice so that you don’t accidentally contaminate one million gallons of drinking water with hazardous waste.

By taking the time to dispose of your used motor oil properly, you’re doing your part in saving the environment – which is worth it.


Why should engine oil be disposed of?

You can help the environment by disposing of your used motor oil properly.

Where can I get rid of used motor oil in my area?

Many businesses will accept used oil and filters, including service stations and repair facilities. Additionally, your local government or recycling coordinator may be able to help you find curbside or other recycling programs in your area.

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