Many people are aware that old engine oil shouldn’t be dumped but recycled.
Regardless, up to 100 million liters (approximately 26.4 million U.S. gallons) of the stuff is improperly disposed of each year in Australia alone, according to the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts.
It is dumped in household trash, used as weed killer, poured into ditches, left lying around, or is illegally dumped. Actually, I’m feeling rather guilty as I write this because I have a gallon or so of old sump oil stashed away.
Used engine oil is incredibly toxic stuff, and a gallon can contaminate one million gallons of water. Pouring it on land does not reduce the risk either, as it can seep down into the water table as well as render the soil incapable of sustaining plant life.
Used oil does not wear out—it just gets filthy. It can be cleaned of contaminants and recycled continuously. It can even be cleaned to the point where it can be reused as engine oil.
The dirty oil goes through the same refining process as oil that is extracted from wells. New engine oil made from recycled oil meets the standards used in the industry lubrication industry. According to the American Petroleum Institute, re-refined oil is of as high a quality as a virgin oil product.
The recycling process is as follows:
1. Removing any water
2. Filtering to remove solids and additives
3. De-asphalting to remove bituminous content
Information from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency states that re-refining used oil takes only about one-third the energy of refining crude oil to lubricant quality. It takes 42 gallons of crude oil, but only one gallon of used oil to produce a half-gallon of new, high-quality lubricating oil that can be used in car engines.
While the following uses may not be all that “green,” it goes to show just how important this resource is recycled rather than just thrown out. By recycling engine oil, we reduce the need for extraction of crude oil and the associated environmental impacts of that activity.
Engine oil can also be used as fuel oil. By recycling just two gallons of used oil, it has the energy potential to generate enough electricity to run the average household for almost 24 hours. One gallon of used oil processed for fuel contains about 140,000 British Thermal Units (BTUs) of energy.
It can be reused as hydraulic oil.
Many petrochemical-based products can be made with it.
Where to Recycle Engine Oil
To find out where you can recycle engine oil in the United States, try Earth911.org and search for a collection center via ZIP code.
In Australia, for further information on used oil and to find your nearest used oil collection facility, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-982-006.
If you are in Canada, try the “Used Oil Recycling” Web site for information on collection points.
For folks in the U.K., visit the “Oil Bank Line” Web site.
Equally important as recycling engine oil is buying products made from the stuff. After learning more about it, I would have no hesitation about using recycled engine oil in my car as long as it was certified as meeting industry standards.
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