Used Oil - Environmental Regulations, Links, Guidances, Free Downloads About Used Oil

Used Oil - Environmental Regulations, Links, Guidances, Free Downloads About Used Oil

Consumers: Managing, Reusing, and Recycling Used Oil

Management of used oil has been the subject of debate for many years; virtually since the enactment of the HSWA regulation in the 80's. In the past months, several final rules and clarifications has addressed the subject. We hope these links to the US EPA information proves useful to you!

Used oil is exactly what its name implies: any petroleum-based or synthetic oil that has been used. Oil keeps our cars, lawnmowers, and many other machines running smoothly. However, during normal use, impurities such as dirt, metal scrapings, water, or chemicals, can get mixed in with the oil, so that in time, the oil no longer performs well. Eventually, this used oil must be replaced with virgin or re-refined oil to do the job correctly.

Note: Information below is intended for consumers. For information on managing used oil at your place of business, read through our Used Oil Management for businesses.

Basic Information on Handling Used Oil at Home

If you are one of the many people who change their own motor oil, you too need to know how to properly manage the used oil. After all, used oil from one oil change can contaminate one million gallons of fresh water — a years’ supply for 50 people! When handling used oil, be sure to take these key points into consideration:

  • Used motor oil is insoluble, persistent, and can contain toxic chemicals and heavy metals.
  • It’s slow to degrade.
  • It sticks to everything from beach sand to bird feathers.
  • It’s a major source of oil contamination of waterways and can result in pollution of drinking water sources.

Are you a “Do-It Yourselfer” —do you change the oil in your car at home? On average, about four million people reuse motor oil as a lubricant for other equipment or take it to a recycling facility. If you plan to recycle your used oil, take care not to spill any when you collect it and place it in a leak-proof can or container.

The Benefits of Reusing and Recycling Used Oil

Recycling and reusing used motor oil is preferable to disposal and can provide great environmental benefits. Recycled used motor oil can be re-refined into new oil, processed into fuel oils, and used as raw materials for the petroleum industry.

Used oils such as engine lubrication oil, hydraulic fluids, and gear oils used in cars, bikes, or lawnmowers can pollute the environment if they are not recycled or disposed of properly. Used oil must be managed properly by local waste management authorities or automotive repair shops to prevent contaminating the environment. Used oil filters pose similar waste concerns. If properly drained, they can be safely recycled or disposed.

Some of the many reasons to reuse and recycle used oil include:

  • Recycling used oil keeps it from polluting soil and water.
  • Motor oil does not wear out—it just gets dirty—so recycling it saves a valuable resource.
  • Less energy is required to produce a gallon of re-refined base stock than a base stock from crude oil.
  • One gallon of used motor oil provides the same 2.5 quarts of lubricating oil as 42 gallons of crude oil.

Where to recycle used oil

Looking for a place to safely take your used motor oil for recycling? Don't pour it down a storm drain! Locate the nearest recycling facility or program near you that accepts used motor oil from your car, truck or motorcycle.

To find used oil recycling locations near you:

  1. First, try a search in Earth 911 Used Oil Recycling Search Tool
  2. Return the oil: If that turns up nothing, pour the oil back inside the containers your new oil came in, and either return it to the retailer you bought it from, or take it to your nearest auto workshop. Both usually will take it if you ask them, but do NOT just leave it on their property if they are closed! That would be considered illegal dumping!
  3. Next, try this Google search for your local town, city or county recycling center. Even if they do not take the oil there, they will know where you can take it locally.
  4. Never put it in your trash. The exception to this is cleanup residue from household spills of oil, such as kitty litter used to soak up oil spilled in your driveway or garage. And you can drain the oil out of a spent oil filter and put that in your trash (usually - some places have extreme requirements, like possibly California!)

How it Works: Recycling Used Oil and Oil Filters

Used oil can be re-refined into lubricants, processed into fuel oils, and used as raw materials for the refining and petrochemical industries. Additionally, used oil filters contain reusable scrap metal, which steel producers can reuse as scrap feed.

So, how is used oil recycled? Note that the most preferred option, re-refined oil—must meet the same stringent refining, compounding, and performance standards as virgin oil for use in automotive, heavy-duty diesel, and other internal combustion engines, and hydraulic fluids and gear oils. Extensive laboratory testing and field studies conclude that re-refined oil is equivalent to virgin oil—it passes all prescribed tests and, in some situations, even outperforms virgin oil.

The same consumers and businesses that use regular oil also can use re-refined oil, since re-refining simply re-processes used oil into new, high-quality lubricating oil. Any vehicle maintenance facilities, automobile owners, and other machinery maintenance operations that use oil also can use re-refined oil. In some cases, fleet maintenance facilities that use large volumes of oil arrange to reuse the same oil that they send to be re-refined—a true closed recycling loop.

Guides, How-to's and US EPA Publications

  • Collecting Used Oil for Recycling/Reuse: Tips for Consumers Who Change Their Own Motor Oil and Oil Filters
    Provides step-by-step instructions for changing motor oil, recycling used oil, and changing and recycling used oil filters. Lists uses for recycled oil.
  • Environmental Regulations and Technology: Managing Used Motor Oil, December 1994
  • Managing Used Oil: Advice for Small Businesses, November 1996
  • Managing Used Oil EPA Document Number: EPA/625/R-94/010 Not available online: To order a copy of this publication at no charge, call or fax your request to ORD Publications at (phone) 513/569-7562 or (FAX) 513/569-7566. ABSTRACT: This document presents information on how to properly manage used motor oil. Topics addressed include management of used oil generated by changing motor oil from automobile or truck crankcases and collecting used motor oil from do-it-yourselfers (DIYs).

    Additionally, Managing Used Oil includes several appendices that provide sources for detailed
    information relating to used oil management and summaries of several applicable federal regulations that address used oil management practices.

Here are links to some organization who the EPA recommends. Unfortunately, most of these have taken down their used oil pages!

Used Oil Management Publications

Home and Consumers

Regulations

Federal Register

Rules and Regulations

  • July 14, 1998 Removal of direct final rule amendments - Removal of amendments included in the May 6, 1998 direct final rule that received adverse comment.

  •  May 6, 1998 Direct final rule and proposal - Clarification of and corrections to the Used Oil Management Standards relating to used oil containing PCBs, response to releases, mixtures of used oil and CESQG wastes, incorrect references, and recordkeeping for marketers of on-specification used oil. This rule makes clear the EPA's intention that polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contaminated used oil containing 50 parts per million (ppm) PCBs or greater is not subject to regulation under the used oil management standards. Used oil contaminated with 50 ppm PCBs or greater is regulated under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) rather than the Resource Conservation and
    Recovery Act (RCRA). Used oil containing less than 50 ppm PCBs is regulated under RCRA and may be regulated under TSCA (depending on concentration and intended use or disposition).

  • June 28, 1996 Final rule, notice of judicial vacatur of administrative stay - Reinstatement of the regulatory provisions set forth in 40 CFR 279.10(b)(2). (Adobe Acrobat PDF)

  • October 30, 1995 Administrative stay - Administrative stay of the regulatory provisions set forth in 40 CFR 279.10(b)(2) applicable to mixtures of used oil destined for recycling and either characteristic hazardous waste or waste listed as hazardous waste because it exhibits a hazardous waste characteristic. (Adobe Acrobat PDF)

  • March 4, 1994 Final rule - Clarification about used oil inserted into crude oil pipelines and refineries, used oil transfer stations, and used oil processors. (ACSII Text File)

  • September 10, 1992 Final rule - Recycled Used Oil Management Standards (ACSII Text File)

Notices

  • April 17, 1996 Notice - Agency Information Collection Activities Under OMB Review - Used Oil ICR (EPA ICR No. 1286.04) approved by OMB. (Adobe Acrobat PDF)
  • February 6, 1996 Notice - Agency Information Collection Activities Under OMB Review - Used Oil ICR (EPA ICR No. 1286.04) forwarded to OMB for review and approval. (Adobe Acrobat PDF)
  • September 1, 1995 Notice - Information Collection Request for Used Oil - Announces that the Used Oil ICR (EPA ICR No. 1286) is coming up for renewal and that EPA is soliciting comments. (Adobe Acrobat PDF)

Code of Federal Regulations

Used Oil Regulations

  • 40 CFR Part 279 - Standards for the Management of Used Oil (Adobe Acrobat PDF)

Other Regulations Related to Used Oil

  • 40 CFR Part 261 - Identification and Listing of Hazardous Waste (Adobe Acrobat PDF) - Even if your used oil is not subject to the Used Oil regs; it could still be regulated as a hazardous waste - especially if it fails the TCLP - check here.
  • 40 CFR Part 761 - Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) Manufacturing, Processing, Distribution in Commerce, and Use Prohibitions (Adobe Acrobat PDF). PCB's are usually found in an oil-like state; used as lubricating & cooling fluids where high-temperature tolerance and heat transfer is needed; like in electrical transformers.

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