Today, environmental awareness, responsibility, and sustainability are key concerns for any business. Industries that generate potentially harmful waste products, such as used oil, require careful adherence to cross-industry standards. Such standards ensure the safest, cleanest environment possible. As a modern business, understanding how to define, store, recycle and dispose of used oil should be one of your top priorities.
The Need for Responsible Used Oil Disposal
Responsible used oil disposal benefits all those involved. It helps maintain a cleaner, safer environment, complies with legal regulations and extends the usable life span of raw materials. Pouring or throwing out used oil is both illegal and a major pollution concern. Without proper disposal, used oil reaches waterways where it causes harmful contamination.
Exposure to this contamination can cause sickness. Those who swim in contaminated water or drink it are likely to become sick. It can also harm aquatic life, disrupting entire ecosystems. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the amount of oil in one vehicle oil change can pollute a million gallons of freshwater. Waste oil disposal matters — choose proper recycling instead of irresponsible disposal tactics.
What Is Used Oil?
The EPA’s definition of used oil encompasses many, but not all, used oil types. The list includes crude and synthetic oils, such as the following:
- Used synthetic oil.
- Used engine oil.
- Used transmission fluid.
- Used refrigeration oil.
- Used compressor oil.
- Used metalworking oil.
- Used laminating oil.
- Used industrial hydraulic fluid.
- Used copper and aluminum wire drawing solution.
- Used electrical insulating oil.
- Used industrial process oil.
- Used buoyant oil.
The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) regulates the above-listed oil types. Note, the EPA’s list excludes bottom clean-out waste if no one has actually used it. The list also excludes antifreeze, kerosene, vegetable and animal oil and petroleum distillates. While these substances can pose an environmental threat, they’re subject to different regulations.
What Industries Generate Used Oil?
Many industries generate the types of used oil included in the EPA’s definition. Some businesses that use such oil include:
- Automotive shops: Automotive shops use oil every day. They use transmission fluids, brake fluids, greases and other oil substances for repairing and maintaining vehicles. It’s vital for automotive shops to ensure proper disposal of their used oil.
- Metalworking facilities: Metalworking facilities utilize a range of oils and other lubricating liquids as they cool, grind, machine or mill metal components. Oils help reduce friction and smoking, making the workplace safer and more effective. The oils used in metalworking require responsible disposal.
- Agricultural professionals: On farms, oil is necessary for operating and maintaining large equipment and machinery. Some farms generate more waste oil than others, but proper disposal is important regardless.
- Fleet maintenance facilities: Fleet maintenance facilities keep organizations’ vehicles in good working order. This often requires the same oils and lubricants as an automotive shop.
- Quick lube shops: A quick lube shop offers limited oil change services to vehicle owners in lieu of a full-service stop. These shops use a great deal of oil, which necessitates a responsible oil disposal method.
How to Properly Store Used Oil
Storing your used oil may be necessary for its proper disposal or recycling. Always follow best practices when storing used oil, as proper management will ensure there is no environmental threat and render the oil easier to handle. Because used oil is not hazardous waste, no accumulation time limits apply. This means you can wait until you’ve accumulated enough used oil for economic transport and recycling. Keep in mind, however, large quantities of used oil are subject to EPA Spill Control Countermeasure (SPCC) requirements.
Regardless of the amount of used oil you store, adhere to the following best practices:
- Use good quality containers: Make sure your containers are free of leaks, rust or deterioration. Schedule regular inspections to make sure your containers are in good condition.
- Include signage: On all containers, fill pipes and transfer items, include signage that reads “Used Oil.” This will help prevent accidental mixing with hazardous waste.
- Establish procedures: To minimize the risk of leaks, spills or other accidents, establish written procedures for when and how to handle your facility’s used oil. Be sure to train your employees on these procedures.
- Plan for accidents: While following these guidelines will help reduce the odds of an accident, leaks could still occur. Be prepared for that possibility. Create written plans describing the processes and tools to utilize if a used oil spill happens. You may need to use a containment berm, sump, drain cover or absorbent mat to retain the spilled oil. Respond as fast as possible to prevent used oil from reaching storm drains or waterways.
The Benefits of Used Oil Recycling
If you’re unsure how to dispose of used oil, consider recycling. Used oil recycling turns the substance into a valuable commodity rather than a harmful waste product. It’s also beneficial for the environment, as it minimizes pollution, saves energy, and helps reduce the need for crude oil extraction. Since oil is a nonrenewable resource with hundreds of modern uses, recycling used oil is the best course of action.
Uses for Recycled Used Oil
Used oil is only dirty, not worn out. Once cleaned, recycled used oil has many potential uses. Re-refined used oil is equivalent to virgin oil, meeting and even exceeding performance standards. As a result, recycled and re-refined oil is useful for automotive technology, machinery maintenance and other industries. Another application for used oil is heat generation. You can burn used oil to create heat using a waste oil burner, which is a type of furnace. Burning used oil for heat benefits the environment by helping to preserve oil resources.
Used Oil and Hazardous Waste Regulations
In some cases, used oil may be hazardous. If oil contains more than 1,000 parts per million (ppm) of halogens, the EPA assumes it has been mixed with hazardous waste, and the facility must manage it as such. This means following all procedures for contaminated oil disposal. Such halogens include chlorine, fluorine, bromine and iodine.
The EPA allows for a rebuttal of this presumption in some circumstances. A successful rebuttal would allow the company to handle the oil as non-hazardous waste. The rebuttal presumption rule only applies if:
- Metalworking oils contain any chlorinated paraffins, and the facility will recycle the oil in any way other than tolling arrangements.
- Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) entered the used oil from a source other than a refrigeration unit.
Rebuttals are successful if the handler can demonstrate the oil is not mixed with hazardous waste. Such a demonstration might include composition analysis, a description of used oil generation and detailed quality control procedures. In some cases, a rebuttal is unnecessary and regular used oil management standards apply. This depends on factors related to the amount of oil generated or the source of the contamination.
No rebuttal presumption is necessary if:
- The metalworking facility plans to process through a tolling arrangement.
- The company plans to reclaim the CFCs.
- The mixtures of used oil and hazardous waste are from small quantity generators.
- The mixture’s only contaminant is polychlorinated biphenyl and it does not exhibit ignitability, reactivity, corrosivity or toxicity.
- The oil generated is 25 gallons per month or less, such as the oil small farmers or do-it-yourself oil users may generate.
- The mixture’s contamination comes from the residue in an empty container.
Note, contamination of more than 4,000 ppm necessitates hazardous waste management, regardless of the halogens’ source.
What to Do With Off-Spec Oil
The EPA’s specifications for used oil include contaminants other than halogens. These contaminants can pose environmental and safety dangers when burned. Such contaminants include:
If used oil contains too much of any of these substances, it is off-specification or off-spec. The EPA only allows off-spec oil burning in some settings, including industrial boilers, utility boilers, industrial furnaces, space heaters and regulated hazardous waste incinerators. In any of these settings, you can burn your contaminated used oil for heat generation or equipment operation.
Burning off-spec oil is a great way to reduce your overhead operational costs while helping the environment. You’ll be able to spend less on external heat sources while utilizing a waste product. In this situation, everyone wins.
How to Dispose of Oil Filters
Another element of responsible oil management is oil filter disposal. Note, terne-plated filters are always hazardous waste. A terne-plated filter contains tin and lead and has lead’s toxic, hazardous characteristics. Most oil filters manufactured in the United States are not terne-plated, but it’s a good idea to double-check your filters. If you’re unsure whether or not your filters are terne-plated, contact the manufacturer.
You can only recycle or dispose of a non-terne-plated oil filter after you’ve drained all free-flowing oil. A used oil filter is not subject to hazardous waste regulations as long as you use one of the three following hot-draining methods. The term “hot-draining” refers to the removal of free-flowing oil while the filter is still hot.
1. Gravity Draining
Gravity draining is the simplest way to remove free-flowing oil from your filters. Once you’ve removed the filter from the engine, set it gasket-side-down in a drain pan. If it has an anti-drain valve, be sure to puncture it — you can use a screwdriver to do this. Most modern oil filters have an anti-drain valve for safer use in the field. Then, all you have to do is wait. Let the filter sit upside down for at least 12 to 24 hours. Gravity will do the work of pulling out any free-flowing oil.
As a more time-effective hot-draining method, crushing works as you might assume — all you have to do is crush the filter. You can use a mechanical, hydraulic or pneumatic device to squeeze out the used oil within. This will also compact any remaining filler materials.
With a mechanical device, you can disassemble your oil filter, allowing any remaining oil to drain. You can then recycle the metal, rubber and paper filter components as normal. Though this method may be more time-consuming than crushing, it’s a great option for optimal recycling.
Environmental Recovery Corporation’s Waste Oil Services
When you exercise best practices for used oil disposal, you can enjoy many benefits. You’ll have peace of mind knowing you’re complying with EPA laws and regulations. You’ll also boost your environmental friendliness and social consciousness, which make for excellent selling points. With that said, used oil disposal can be a complicated task, with ample room for error.
If you’re wondering how to get rid of used oil, consider employing third-party waste oil services. At Environmental Recovery Corporation (ERC), we’re the experts in non-hazardous, residual waste management. We offer EPA-compliant oil disposal services and prioritize reducing landfill waste. Our experienced team will manage, transport and recycle your used oil.
Used Oil Management
We’ll help you deal with your company’s used oil. Our used oil management services include the following:
- Waste oil collection: We’ll remove the used oil from your facility using sustainable methods and practices.
- Emergency spill cleanup services: Even though a used oil spill is non-hazardous, it can have negative effects on both your operation and the environment. That’s why we offer emergency spill removal services for non-hazardous spills.
Used Oil Transport
The next step in the process is used oil transport. When you partner with us, you can leave transport logistics and expenses in our hands. Our trusted transport methods help ensure EPA compliance. Secure waste transport is essential for the environment and human health. We take waste transport seriously, using sturdy, dependable vehicles and the safest possible routes.
We’re industry leaders in waste removal and transport — we collect, transport and process more than 60,000 containerized waste articles per year. If you generate waste other than used oil, we can help. We handle all types of solid and liquid waste in any compliant-sized waste container.
Used Oil Recycling
If you value environmental responsibility, we’re the right partners for you. After we collect and transport your used oil, we recycle as much as possible. If any oil remains, we dispose of it in a careful, responsible fashion, ensuring both EPA compliance and environmental safety. With our used oil recycling services, you can minimize your company’s environmental impact without having to create your own recycling plan.
Contact ERC for Used Oil Recycling
Many industries generate used oil. Although it’s often non-hazardous, its disposal requires standardized regulation. Companies need to ensure compliance with these regulations for legal and ethical reasons. Proper removal and recycling of used oil minimizes pollution risks, ensuring a safer, cleaner environment. It also helps reduce the need for raw oil extraction, a nonrenewable natural resource.
If your facility generates used oil, consider ERC for used oil removal, transport and recycling. With our comprehensive services, we offer you total peace of mind. We help ensure your company’s EPA compliance and improve your environmental impact. We can also handle a wide range of other waste products, making us a one-stop-shop for your facility’s waste management. To learn more about our used oil recycling services, contact us today.