Handling your own oil change feels empowering and saves you a ton of money throughout the years. That said, there are some things that sometimes feel better left to the professionals, including that old oil. What are you supposed to do with it now that it is sitting in a vat? Turns out, knowing how to dispose of motor oil safely and properly is yet another thing you should know as a vehicle owner. So, let’s discuss what your options are when it comes to getting rid of your old oil.
Understanding the Risks of Improper Oil Disposal
Before learning how to dispose of motor oil, let’s first talk about the risks of dumping it improperly. Not only is the dumping of motor oil into the ground illegal, it is also hazardous to the environment. Did you know that one gallon of motor oil has the potential to contaminate 100 million—yes, million—gallons of water? The toxic components of motor oil, such as heavy metals and hydrocarbons, can also harm aquatic life, plants, and soil quality. Therefore, it is crucial to handle and dispose of used motor oil with care.
How to Collect and Store Used Motor Oil
The first step to getting rid of your old motor oil safely is to collect and store it the right way. When changing your car’s oil, start by draining it into a clean, leak-proof pan or container. If said container comes with an air-tight lid, that’s even better, but it’s not mandatory if you plan on applying that oil to something else (more on that in a moment). Some good examples of oil containers include plastic oil jugs, old milk cartons, or metal containers designed specifically for used oil storage. Avoid using containers that previously held chemicals or food products, as these may contaminate the oil.
Additionally, if the oil gets mixed with another fluid, it cannot be reused or recycled. Make sure any container you use for oil collection is free of water, washer fluid, gasoline, or any other liquid.
Since you may not be able to get around to reusing or recycling your old engine oil right away, be sure to store the oil someplace cool and dry. If you have to store it, make sure the lid is on tight and that the oil is out of reach for children and pets.
Check out this video for some tips on how to dispose of motor oil:
What To Do With Old Oil
So you have a huge jug of viscous, sludge-like oil. Now what? You have a couple of options: reuse your motor oil or recycle it. Reusing your motor oil does not mean pouring it into another vehicle or piece of equipment. Instead, consider lubricating the edges of your chainsaw, gardening tools, or any oil-fired space heater you might have. You could also use old motor oil on your fence as a stain, though there is the potential for run-off into the ground. Keep in mind that reusing your motor oil is best when the oil is not entirely dirty. Ensure the oil is free of metal pieces and other contaminants before applying it to other appliances.
How to Dispose of Motor Oil Properly
Your other option is to recycle the oil. This is also considered the more responsible option. Here are some places where you can take your motor oil for recycling: (some for free)
Automotive Retailers and Service Centers
Many automotive retailers and service centers have collection programs for used motor oil and oil filters. Examples include auto parts stores (such as AutoZone and Advanced Auto Parts), car dealerships, and oil change service centers. They often have designated drop-off points where you can bring your used oil and filters. Some may even offer rewards or discounts for recycling. You can also try your local repair shop to see if they will dispose of oil and oil filters. Usually, any place with its own need for oil containment and recycling will accept the oil from your DIY oil change.
Local Recycling Facilities
Check with your local recycling centers or solid waste management facilities. Many of these facilities have specific programs for accepting and recycling used motor oil and oil filters. They may provide designated collection containers or have scheduled collection events. Contact your local recycling center or check their website for more information.
County or State Recycling Programs
Some counties or states have comprehensive recycling programs that include used motor oil and oil filters. They may have collection sites at public works departments, transfer stations, or recycling centers. These programs are designed to promote environmentally responsible disposal and recycling. Check your county or state government websites for information on their recycling programs and collection sites.
Municipal Hazardous Waste Facilities
Most cities and municipalities have hazardous waste facilities that accept used motor oil and oil filters. These facilities are equipped to handle and dispose of hazardous waste properly. They often have dedicated drop-off areas or scheduled collection events for used motor oil and filters.
Disposing of Oil Filters and Other Waste
Used oil filters also contain residual oil and should not be disposed of in regular trash. After removing the filter from your vehicle, let it drain for several hours to minimize oil dripping. Once drained, encase it in a sealed, leak-proof bag or container and dispose of it at a designated recycling facility or through a professional disposal service.
What Happens to Recycled Engine Oil?
Now, you may be wondering, if your motor oil is old and dirty, what good is it? Can it really be recycled and made new again? Yes and no. The old engine can be used in other places, such as heating houses and commercial buildings around the area. Some electrical plants also use old oil to produce power. Sometimes, the oil is also re-refined, making it just as usable for a car engine as it was when it first got it.
From an environmental standpoint, the fact that motor oil can be recycled and reused is amazing. It takes about 42 gallons of crude oil to produce just 2.5 quarts of engine oil. However, it takes about a gallon of recycled oil to make the same amount—little to no water required.
Final Thoughts on What to Do With Old Oil
Now you know how to dispose of motor oil. Properly disposing of motor oil is not just a matter of convenience; it is an essential responsibility we have towards the environment. By following the guidelines outlined in this article, you can ensure that your used motor oil is handled and disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner. Remember to collect and store the oil in leak-proof containers, explore opportunities for reuse or recycling, and utilize local resources such as recycling centers, automotive retailers, or hazardous waste facilities.