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Basic Information

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American Petroleum Institute Used Motor Oil Collection and Recycling Site Exit EPA

California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) Used Oil Recycling Program Exit EPA

Oil keeps our cars, lawnmowers, and many other machines running smoothly. But, once oil is used, it must be discarded properly, to keep it from contaminating the environment. Recycling used oil is becoming the preferred way of handling used oil to protect the environment and conserve natural resources.

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

Just the Facts

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Recycling Used Oil and Oil Filters

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

To recycle used oil, processors and refiners remove water, insolubles, dirt, heavy metals, nitrogen, chlorine, and oxygenated compounds from oil drained from automobiles or other machines. The resulting product—called “rerefined” 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 rerefined 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 rerefined oil, since rerefining simply reconditions 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 rerefined oil. In some cases, fleet maintenance facilities that use large volumes of oil arrange to reuse the same oil that they send to be rerefined—a true closed recycling loop.

Benefits of Recycling Oil
Recycling Oil at Home

Are you a “Do-It Yourselfer” — that is, do you change the oil in your car at home? You can still recycle your used oil. Take care not to spill when you collect the used oil, and place it in a leak-proof can or container. Check with local automobile maintenance facilities, waste collectors, and government waste officials to see when and where you can drop off your used oil for recycling. Don’t forget to drain and recycled use oil filters as well—usually you can drop off the filters at the same collection centers where you deposit used oil.

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Case Study

King County, Washington (PDF) (6 pp, 77K, about PDF) Exit EPA, has been using rerefined oil since 1992. Visit this website for information about King County’s experience with and specifications for rerefined motor oil.

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