Resource Management Good Water Usage Conservation Essays     Eco-Solutions

2006 Used Oil Recycling in America

Presented to:
The Twenty-Second International Conference
on Solid Waste Technology and Management
March 19, 2007 Philadelphia, PA U.S.A.
2012 Used Oil Recycling in America pdf file


Years ago there was a Pogo cartoon with a picture of an oil tanker in a backyard, and the caption read, "We have met the enemy and it is us." At George Washington University in 1977 one of my environmental science books alerted me to the oil polluting my local watershed of Little Falls in Bethesda, Maryland that runs into one of the drinking water reservoirs for the nation's capital. Since then I have promoted the recovery of do-it-yourself automotive fluids from every possible angle. I began this effort in Montgomery County, Maryland and started DC's used oil recycling efforts. I even helped build the region's largest used oil recycling facility and assisted Virginia's used oil collection program since 1981.

In America we can better use and conserve our oil. Each year we use hundreds of billion gallons of the world's petroleum supplies. Yearly, Americans use over 7 billion barrels of oil products. Since the USA constitutes 4% of the world's population, uses over 25 % of the world's oil, and produces 22% of climate-altering CO2. We have a tremendous opportunity to best save our oil, especially our ubiquitous consumer crankcase drainings.

At the well head, there is the one trillion gallons of oilfield waste we inject into deep wells in addition to the 3 billion tons of oil and gas wastes we generate yearly by our oil and gas exploration and production in the USA. The last public generated report to Congress on this subject was made by the Environmental Protection Agency back in 1986. At the back end, we waste 400 million gallons of used oil and discard hundreds million oil filters yearly in the United States. The current sampling method to evaluate the toxicity of oil, Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP) was designed for municipal landfills not oil so this testing procedure is outdated. I ask you to simply reflect on the fact that one gallon of used oil improperly disposed can contaminate one million gallons of fresh water or ruin the water supply for 50 people for a year.

The used oil recycling market offers a case study into the complexity of defining and regulating one area of recycling. Before we can understand the secondary oil market represented by recycled oil, we must understand the primary one. Each year in the United States, an estimated 260 billion gallons of crude virgin oil are processed into various petroleum products, such as gasoline, kerosene, plastics, etc. Of this amount, only 1/2 of one percent becomes used oil.

Used oil disposal for the American do-it-yourself oil changer (DIYer) can become a serious problem or a valuable resource depending how it is managed. As with other pollutants, our greatest challenge is controlling non point sources to restore our water in the US. . Used oil can contain toxic substances such as benzene, lead zinc and cadmium.

One example is where I live. In the last four years, Virginian motorists disposed of 11.2 million gallons of oil, equivalent to the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill. The improper disposal of used oil, oil filters, and antifreeze by those who perform their own automobile maintenance is a ubiquitous environmental concern. Three to 4.5 million gallons of used oil, 4.7 to 5.9 million oil filters, and approximately one million gallons of antifreeze were "lost" in Virginia's environment. Only 15-30% of these materials are estimated as recovered. Even the disposal of discarded oil filters and plastic containers reveals a residual amount of oil whose sheer volume is alarming.

Presently, Virginia provides a 50% state tax credit to businesses that burn used oil in small heaters if they accept if from do-it-yourselfer (DIY). Since 1999, it is not known how much this does to stimulate DIY used oil return but it can be assumed not enough to warrant this subsidy. Data from Virginia Department of Environmental Quality indicates they have certified 849 units providing $670,046 or an average credit of $790.

In July 2006, the U.S. Department of Energy Used Oil Re-refining Study indicated that the United States consumed about 25 percent of the total worldwide demand for lube oils. Congress mandated this inquiry under the Energy Policy Act of 2005, Section 1839. Most European countries are more advanced in reduction, reusing and recycling used oil. For example Europe has three times more re-refining capacity or the ability of making used oil back into a lube oils. Also this report recommend the following:

"It is possible that state would be better served by channeling public education into the expansion of collection centers and financing recycling efforts as opposed to subsidizing space heaters. pg 18" This paper pulls together the most current information what the do-it-yourselfers do with their used oil, filters, and anti-freeze and other petroleum by-products. However, current data on this is lacking and these figures have been best estimated."

Millions Sources of Pollution

A key issue is the non point source of used oil pollution by oil changers. Presently DOE estimates that 80% of the Do-it-Yourself (DIY) used oil is improperly disposed into our environment. Also this study concludes that the annual volume of disposed oil has decreased from 426 million gallons in 1996 to 348 million gallons of an estimated million gallons in 2004.

This is an interesting finding since that amount of vehicle miles driven in the US and the number of automobiles has increased. While miles driven in the last few years has increased 8-9 percent this has been matched by oil change interval increases since now people do not change their oil at 3,000 miles rather every 5,000 miles.

Current Consumer Market

Total US motor oil sales have been flat several years now despite these increases. For the DIY portion, there has been little info in trade journals on DIY portion. DIY decline has is estimated at around. 40% and or Do-it-For-Me changes are at 60%. It is important to recognize that this is the volume of oil sold to DIYers, and likely does not represent the number of DIYers. What is not clear if the DIY are driving many more miles between changes now or their numbers are dropping?

Oil Filters

Another curious finding by this study is that oil filters have a 50 percent recycling rate according to the Filter Manufacturer Council (FMA). However verification of this rate is of question as also the exact amount of consumer oil filters that have been sold.

One good indicator to track actual oil changes instead of folks who buy motor oil to "top-off' the engine is to follow oil filter sales. In 1998 there were 450 million light-duty oil filters sold in the United States, while 778 million light-duty filters were purchased in 2002 according to FMA.

Reusable Oil Filters

An average used light-duty oil filter contains on the average eight ounces of oil. Widespread adoption of reusable filter systems could virtually eliminate used oil being trapped in filters and prevent steel filters entering landfills.

There are reusable oil filters that are compatible with engines that use the one-piece sealed spin-on filter. No modifications or tools are required to install these filters on any engine that uses a spin-on filter, and they allow for the recovery of all used motor oil. The assembly housing is reused; only the paper element is replaced, and this can be easily recycled or burned for energy. If produced in volume, this filter could be manufactured for under a dollar per unit. At the point of final sale, the replacement filter element would cost somewhat less than the current spin-on filter. Reusable filters were popular up to the early 1960s and are still widely used in the racing industry.

Used Oil Burned vs. Reused

DOE estimates, 780 million recycled gallons of used oil each year, 83 percent is burned, while 17 percent is re-refined into new lubricating oil. It was found that re-refining used oils saved 8.1 percent of the energy content of the used oil compared to combusting the oil for heating purposes. Transforming all used oil that is currently combusted into lube oil products would save 63 million gallons of fuel oil equivalent per year; a savings of $63 million annually at current fuel prices.

Presently, most used oil is burned for fuel in small space heaters, asphalt plants, industrial kilns, boilers and furnaces in America and little is re-refined. Roughly, 110 million gallons used oil is burned as fuel in 75,000 small used oil space heaters equating to 7 percent of the total zinc air emissions. Serious environmental and energy questions have been raised by the combustion of used motor oils in space heaters. This report cites that small burners do not provide levels of pollution reduction found in large-scale industrial combustion processes since asphalt/ cement plants and steel mills have flue gas treatment technologies.

DOE Report Policy Options

This study recommends a national workshop of state used oil management officials to exchange to stimulate active recycling programs to benefit from the experiences of those that have well established and successful programs. Also, encourage those states that have not yet passed used oil legislation to take action. This conference would seek to identify the best practices and guidelines for states to follow including funding mechanisms.

Also the study pointed to the need to assist rural and farming communities. Urban areas appear to have more effective recycling programs in place due to closer proximity to recycling centers. DIY consumers in the rural and farming communities offer the highest growth potential for recovering additional volumes of used oils. Thus, increasing the recovery of DIY oil is an important factor in making substantial progress in used oil recycling.

Targeting cost conscious DIY consumers with effective public awareness and education programs can communicate the benefits of recycling used oils. Also targeting non English oil changers, should also be given to the needs to communicate in a foreign languages are dominant in specific areas.

California's Model Used Oil Program

The California Oil Recycling Enhancement Act of 1992 was created in response to the decline of public collection sites and the need to manage a large volume of used oil. A multi-million dollar used oil block and opportunity grants program is being administered by the Integrated Waste Management Board. This program promotes curbside collection, and state certified collection centers, as well as local government and statewide education and informational efforts. The program is funded by a fee (4 cents a quart) on lubricating oil. Grants are available to local government as an incentive to recycle. Grants are available to local governments to maintain existing programs ($10 million per year) and to set up or expand collection programs (about $3 million per year). As of 2006 there are 2800 State certified collection centers. Approximately 7.8 million gallons of used oils were collected from DIYers in fiscal year 2005-2006.

California conducted two consumer used oil surveys. In 1994 the first survey revealed that used oil education must also be targeted towards the non-English speaking residents-almost 20% of California DIYers speak Spanish as a primary language. In addition, the improper disposal rate of used oil was found to be high among non-English speaking people.

The California Integrated Waste Management Board in January, 2002 conducted a Do-it-Yourself and Used Oil Disposal Study conducted by the Public Research Institute (PRI) and San Francisco State University. Their findings were the following:
  • 19 percent of households with vehicles change their own oil (a decline from 23 percent in 1994). 4% use shade tree mechanics and 77% are performed at garages.
  • PRI estimated a 64 percent improper disposal rate in 2003-04. Four out of five of this group disposed of all of their used oil improperly (the California Integrated Waste Management Board, in a follow-up analysis, estimated improper disposal rates to be between 20 and 40 percent).
  • 2.3 million DIYer households in California.
  • 87% are Men; Most likely under 65 years old.
  • 19 percent of DIYers dispose of used oil improperly.
  • After accounting for household income, race and ethnicity was not a factor in improper disposal of used oil. The 1994 statewide study found that Hispanics disposed of used oil improperly at much higher rates.
  • Newcomers, who lived in the US less then five years, reported a disposal level at 40 percent.
  • DIYers who lived more than 3 miles or more from a collection center were more likely to dispose improperly.
  • This analysis did not turn up clear differences in demographics between improper disposers and recyclers.
  • DIYers have somewhat lower household incomes than the average (more than 60% percent have household incomes of less then $25,000) and while it is one of the determining influences on who is a DIYer and who is not, many DIYers also have average to very high income levels.
This survey targeted 400 DIYers and 219 non-DIYers after telephoning 3808 adults (49% rural, 51% urban)

In looking at the California DIY numbers, 20% of the public are DIY (phone survey data). This can easily be confused with the DIY volumes. 47% of the volume is cited as an industry measure from sales. So in California, 20 % of the public are responsible for 47% of the volume (and perhaps 47% of the vehicles). This shows the large number of vehicles the DIYers oversee and the propensity for DIYers to change their oil too often. 20% of the population change their own cars and their mother's and their sister's etc, etc. The DIYer own more cars and changes the oil in family members' cars, so it is disproportionate. Other findings are included in the Table 1 below.

Table 1 Do-It-Yourselfers and the Recovery of Used Oil and in CA PRI, Oct. 2005

  • All surveys underestimate improper disposal of used oil and filters.
  • Knowing that all surveys underestimate improper disposal of used oil and filters is important, so that State and local used oil programs are not led into false conclusions about rates of improper disposal and so that programs do not attempt to assess rates of improper disposal via surveys that can not deliver that information.
  • Two distinctly different types of DIYers engage in DIY work for different reasons and dispose of very different volumes of oil on average. Most DIYers change oil only for vehicles in their own households, but "shade-tree mechanics" (STM) change oil on vehicles outside their household as well.
  • California has about 2.1 million DIY households. Of the DIYers in those households, 348,000 are also STMs; 1,758,000 are DIYers within the household only. An estimated 123,000 DIYers, mainly STMs, dispose of 25 gallons of used oil or more per year.
  • STMs disposed of more than half of DIY used oil in 2003-04 and accounted for 50-80 percent of the improperly disposed oil. At least among U.S.-born DIYers, STMs are more likely than other DIYers to dispose improperly. On average, STMs disposed of nine times as much oil improperly per year as other DIYers.
  • High-volume oil changing and improper disposal, mainly by STMs, is concentrated at younger ages and in households with low and moderate income. The motivation for high-volume STM work is economic.
  • In 2003-04, 40 percent of the oil that DIYers drained from their vehicles was collected.
  • There are two main methods of collecting used oil in California: center-based collection-DIYer delivery of used oil to collection centers-and curbside collection. Collection via centers has been more widely implemented and produces much more oil in total, but curbside collection is much more effective at reducing improper disposal.
  • The most populous counties of southern California, rely entirely or almost entirely on collection through centers to which DIYers take their oil.
  • Where curbside collection is available to DIYers, it is very effective, reducing estimated improper disposal to zero. Its shortcoming at present is that it is typically not available to DIYers who reside in multifamily dwellings and typically not available to younger DIYers (including STMs), who generate most of the improperly disposed used oil.
  • Collection centers. Very convenient centers are somewhat effective, reducing improper disposal to a little under 40 percent. The shortcomings of collection centers are: they are often not convenient for DIYers; and even when they are very convenient, many DIYers still do not recycle their used oil. Even very convenient centers fail to collect a substantial fraction of used oil unless more effective ways can be found to change the behavior of improper disposers and increase their commitment to recycle.
  • Younger U.S.-born STMs are by far the highest priority target group for oil collection programs statewide. They also may wish to remain unknown to government. The potential for conflict between objectives of oil collection and objectives of regulation and taxation is significant.
  • Maximizing collection of used oil and filters disposed by STMs should be a top priority.
  • Because curbside collection has demonstrated that it reduces estimated improper disposal to zero, curbside collection is the method of choice for used oil collection. To support curbside collection, the Board should encourage localities to establish, expand, and improve curbside collection of oil, filters, and empty oil containers; disseminate information about low-cost, effective, secure curbside collection systems. Although some gains can be achieved via more convenient collection centers, they are likely to be much smaller than the gains from adoption of curbside pickup.
  • Programs that ask DIYers to take their used oil to collection centers can estimate the probability of changing an improper disposer's behavior with outreach campaigns by applying a simple conceptual scheme that will improve program decision-making over time.
  • Cost is important. PRI recommends that the Used Oil Program work with local programs to develop best practices for successful, cost-effective curbside collection and, if necessary, to sponsor studies of the comparative long-term costs of driving illegal disposal of used oil to zero under each method.
  • Almost all used filters handled by the DIY, and their residual oil, were improperly disposed in 2000-2001 because of the lack of filter collection infrastructure statewide and because DIYers are largely unaware that filters can and should be recycled. Much more residual oil remains in used filters than previously thought, even after they are drained. Residual oil in filters is a significant part of the total used oil stream.
California has been a leader in championing used oil since it has one of the best tracking and management systems. Their ability to measure what is happening is why they are a model and have one of the nation's most effectively managed DIY oil.

South Carolina: Another Leader in Used Oil Management

South Carolina's statewide used oil recycling program targeting do-it-yourselfers (DIYers) continues to flourish. Similar to California they have a tax on every quart of oil sold and this advanced disposal fee stimulates greater recovery of these petroleum by-products. Through a combination of technical assistance and grant funding for local governments, the Office has helped develop one of the nation's most comprehensive used oil recycling programs targeting DIYers.

Do-it-yourself (DIY) oil changers in South Carolina recycled 1,164,835 gallons of used oil in 2004. This marks the sixth consecutive year that more than 1 million gallons were collected, according to figures released by the Office. Since the used oil recycling program began in 1990, DIYers have recycled more than 11 million gallons of used oil. In addition, DIYers continued to recycle used oil filters and oil bottles in most counties

There are more than 800 sites across the state for DIYers.

South Carolina has developed a statewide awareness program on used oil recycling. The program includes NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon, who serves as the state's spokesperson on used oil recycling and appears in a 30-second public service announcement. The Office also has developed three nationally award-winning 30-second PSAs starring the Recycle Guys. In addition, the Green Driver Project, a special program for high school driver education classes, has been developed. The program centers on a class presentation and includes a used oil recycling lesson from "Action for a cleaner tomorrow" and a video, "DHEC1: Behind the Oil Change."

In addition, DIYers recycled hundreds of tons of used oil filters and more than 100 tons of oil bottles. Precise recycling efforts are not measurable as many counties now collect and market used oil filters and oil bottles with other metals and plastics, respectively. With this being the case, not all filters and bottles that are being recycled are being counted directly. Currently, more than 40 of the state's 46 counties accept used oil filters for recycling with most of those counties also collecting oil bottles for recycling.

To assist farmers with the proper management of used oil generated on the farm, DHEC continues to encourage local governments to establish oil recycling sites for farmers. Agricultural oil tanks typically hold 600 gallons of used oil and are fitted with a pump and hose in an effort to make it easier for farmers to deliver up to 55 gallons of used oil at one time. Such tanks are currently available at 38 locations

South Carolina continues to expand its used oil recycling program by adding oil/gasoline mixture collection sites to the county programs. The oil/gasoline mixture tanks are typically 500 gallons and are designed to accept oil, gasoline and oil/gasoline mixtures from lawn equipment and recreational vehicles. Oil/gasoline mixture collection sites have been established at 47 locations.

The Office continues to provide local governments with oil bottle drain racks. Draining the oil bottles often makes them more marketable. Drained bottles can normally be mixed with other HDPE (#2) plastics. Just in California, quart bottles generate roughly one millions gallons of clean motor oil.

Florida - Another State Program

Florida is an example of a program that is funded entirely out of their general fund. As of December, 2004, Florida had a statewide network of 889 active Public Used Oil Collection Centers (PUOCCs). Operators of used oil collection sites who maintain compliance with all applicable management standards are granted certain liability exemptions under Section 114 of the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA or Superfund), and are also granted protection against enforcement penalties related to a release of used oil under Florida Statutes, Section 403.760, but they must still assume the significant costs associated with a clean-up.

The number of PUOCCs participating in this program continues a downward trend most of which is attributed to the fact that many municipalities are moving away from multiple, often remote, un-monitored stations which are prone to abuse, and towards establishing one central, monitored, collection site. Although the number of PUOCCs seems to be decreasing, the quantity of used oil collected from household Do-It-Yourselfers (DIYers) has remained relatively stable over the years notwithstanding some significant spikes, such as that evidenced in the 2004 data.

PUOCCs accepted 2,450,762 gallons of used oil in calendar year 2004. This is a decrease of nearly a half million gallons, or nearly 20% compared to 2003. The reasons for this significant decline are three-fold. The first, and most significant, factor is the impact of four hurricanes on the used oil collection infrastructure, as described on. Second, the data reported the year before by a single corporate entity which owns half of the collection centers reporting were significantly flawed. While investigating the corporate reporting error, department staff refined a program glitch in the collection database which may have caused some slight over-reporting of the actual number of gallons collected.

The department estimates that in Florida, because of the size of its retirement age population, the vibrant quick lube service business, and large lease fleets, the number of DIYers is probably close to 15% of the 13.5 million registered vehicles. DEP estimates that Florida DIYers generated about

8.1 million gallons of used oil in 2004. This means that, despite the problems described above, Florida still collected 31% of the DIYer used oil estimated to have been generated, which is a slight decrease of 7% from last year.

The 2002 Used Oil Recycling media campaign showed a strong correlation to an increase in the amount of used oil collected from DIYers. The continuing trend of a decreasing number of PUOCCs indicates that such media campaigns should be continued.

The Department maintains a toll-free number (1-800-741-4DEP) which uses voice mail to index PUOCCs by post office zip code. Anyone calling this number is prompted to enter their zip code. The system then either reports a listing of PUOCCs in that zip code, or directs the caller to retry adjacent zip codes or leave a taped message for a prompt reply from a department representative. The department has partnered with "Earth 911" to maintain this information on its web page ( This information is also available through the 1-800CLEAN-UP network.

Advance Auto Parts® and AutoZone® stores now maintain approximately 60% of the PUOCCs in Florida. These major participants help to ensure the convenience of this program for all Floridians.

Florida Used Oil Filters (UOFs) Program
There are a number of difficulties in deriving conclusions with a high degree of confidence from UOF data. First, as the department's authority to regulate UOFs extends only to the used oil trapped within the filter, the reporting of such data was made optional under the Rule. Second, UOFs are collected in a number of different ways (e.g. barrels, drums, roll-offs or bins of crushed, uncrushed or shredded filters) and the data are reported using barrel equivalents (1 barrel equals a certain number of filters) and tonnage conversions (converting weight to numbers of filters). The numbers generated are approximations. Staff has been unable to obtain sales figures of new oil filters in Florida as this is considered proprietary information by the companies involved in this business. As a result, staff can only estimate the number of filters which are generated in the state. Finally, data on filters generated in areas of the state served by Waste-to-Energy (WTE) facilities are, for the most part, not reported at all. This is assumed to be a significant number of filters as approximately 14% of all solid waste generated in Florida is burned for energy recovery.

DEP estimated that approximately 54 million UOFs are generated in Florida per year. From the data reported, 25,055,495 UOFs were reported to have been recycled (diverted from landfill disposal). This accounts for approximately 46% of the UOFs estimated to have been generated in Florida. This is a 1% decrease in the number of UOFs reported recycled in 2003. This decrease is believed to be due to a number of factors including the inherent vagueness of the reporting mechanisms.

The prohibition against the landfill disposal of used oil filters resulted in the recycling, rather than disposal, of 12,528 tons of steel in 2004. About 391,492 gallons of used oil, trapped within the filter, were collected during the management of these filters and handled under the used oil management standards (it is assumed that 2 oz. of used oil remain within a UOF).

DOE Study Recommendations

DOE recommends accelerated tax depreciation allowances to expedite re-refining and to expand re-refined lube base oil production capacity. Such financial incentives can be offered manufacturers to expand production capacity for a base oil end product that is suitable for blending either new motor oil and or industrial oil products. This incentive is not recommended for combustion end users. Finally, require automobile manufacturers to proactively state in owner manuals that re-refined oils are acceptable as a blending component in motor oils as long as they meet the API certification requirements.

Also this study encourages that federal agencies make additional volumes of used oils available for sale for the purpose of being regenerated to re-refined base oil. Furthermore, the government could explore entering into potential joint venture operation with private industry to re-refine those oils and produce products that can be supplied back to federal government agencies.

DOE suggests that the fed's conduct an extensive study of used oil recycling programs to update what progress has been achieved. Also support initiatives such as programs for extended drain intervals (i.e. every 5000 miles), and enhanced oil filtering systems, and other energy conservation and environmental protection.


The DOE study addresses how to minimize improper disposal of used oil in landfills, on the ground or waterways, and increase re-refining capacity and production volumes recognizing that re-refining maximizes the energy resource preservation with minimal impact on the environment. Since the Used Oil Recycling Act of 1980 this DIY recycling rate has doubled. However, now over a quarter of a century latter 80 percent of this black gold is lost as a harmful waste. Also in the last 30 years our energy consumption and population has increased by 40% and our vehicle miles driven has increase by 150%.

There are more than 12,000 community-based oil recycling locations such as auto parts stores, service stations or local government agencies across the nation that will assist you in recycling your used oil. To find a recycling center near you, please enter your zip code at either www.Earth911 or call 1-800-CLEANUP. Good public education/outreach and convenience collection locations (ideally curbside collection) are the two key facets to getting consumer participation. Yet, without funding and a management program these recovery efforts will not properly grow.

Today, our watersheds are impaired by non-point pollution. Similarly, the DIYer is the largest source of used oil pollution and measures to control this non point source must be fully addressed. Used oil does not only originate from the crankcase drainings of cars, trucks, motorcycles, buses, lawn mowers, boats, and planes, but from all types of machinery and industrial applications as well which may make contamination more likely. Re-refining represents the best attempt to return used oil to its original state.

The draining, recycling, and reusing of used oil filters also requires increased private, public and government support. Every motor vehicle administration in the U.S. could, at a minimum, promote that DIYers drain their oil filter before disposal. This could also be promoted on every oil filter sold.

The opportunities to develop on-site, closed-loop, recycling technologies requires further stimulation as demonstrated with industrial used oils. Reclaiming oil for re-use on site is a very attractive prospect since transportation costs and the possibility of increased spills are severely curtailed.

Almost 30 years ago a Parade Magazine article , "We Can Stop Wasting our Oil," by brought national attention in promoting DIY recovery. This article cited a 5-10% recycling rate with 85 million Americans DIYers estimated to throwing away 200 million gallons of used oil. It also mentioned that Senator Pete Domenici introduced the Used Oil Recycling Act to provide $25 million dollars to states for five years. After this Act was passed I testified in May of 1981 before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce and Transportation representing state oil recycling coordinators requesting state funding. No money was ever allocated to states. Around the late 1970's, early 1980's, millions of dollars were given to states due to multi-billion dollar law suit settlement from oil overcharges awarded to the Department of Energy to promote energy conservation measures. Efforts for promoting petroleum product stewardship have been greatly under-funded by both private and public sectors. Why do auto batteries have an 85 percent recycling rate and motor oil has a 20 percent recycling rate?

Over the next five years petroleum companies will receive more than $31.6 billion from the federal government. Exxon Mobil Corporation just posted the largest annual profit in corporate history of $ 39.5 billion dollars. However, the good news is various states have led the way.

Used oil does not wear out, it just gets dirty. States that have a management program (a tax on motor oil sold) and track their used oil such as California, and South Carolina have the best programs. States such as Virginia that lack program funding for used oil management and outreach have limited information how DIY used oil is being managed.

Increased awareness is essential to stimulate greater support extending oil changes beyond every 3000 miles (when applicable), using synthetic oils, utilizing reusable oil filters, used oil collection, recycling and the purchasing of re-refined motor oils. Further, private/public cooperative efforts may prevent used oil pollution, save energy, and create new forms of commerce. The future will show how used oil can be used again and again.

Almost 20 years ago, I presented a similar paper here to the 4th International Conference on Solid Waste Technology and Management. In my thirty years, of tracking DIY used oil present interest to address this pollution is at a low point in national awareness. Unfortunately, many Americans remain in the dark about the present improper disposal of motor oil and other auto by-products. How we address the challenge to engage millions of DIYers to recycle their used oil has significance not just in recovering other consumer toxins but demonstrates to the world, we, Americans care for our earth. Faced with the facts of climate change, we must foster stewardship if wish to further prosper.
Internet Links of Interest
American Petroleum Institute

USED OIL REFERENCES: Other titles by the author, Robert Arner:

  • "Arner's Angle: Used oil reborn: Re-refining new lubricants, April 5, 2001
  • "Used Oil Recycling: Closing the Loop." Presented to 7th Annual SWANA Symposium on Waste Reduction, Prevention, Recycling and Composting, February 26, 1996, Nashville, Tennessee.
  • "Safe Recycling of Used Oil," Biocycle magazine, September 1995.
  • "What Oil Changers in America Are Doing With Their Used Oil," Waste Age magazine, April 1995.
  • "Separating the Steel from the Oil," Biocycle magazine, January, 1995.
  • "Re-refining in 1994: Converting Used Oil Back into a Lubricant," Biocycle magazine, and Lubricants World magazine, June 1994.
  • "Used Oil Markets and Best Management Practices in the United States," National Recycling Congress, September 15, 1992, Boston, MA.
  • "Curbside Recycling of Used Oil," Resource Recycling magazine, September 1991.
  • "State and Local Used Oil Programs," Resource Recycling magazine, May 1989.
  • "How to Set Up a Local Used Oil Recycling Program" (co-author), and assisted in the development of numerous newsletters and brochures on used oil recovery, USEPA, 1988.
Mr. Robert Arner is President of Recovery Enterprises and has hands-on experience in all aspects of used oil recycling, having been one of the first organizers of the National Oil Recyclers Association and the National Recycling Coalition. He has worked on Virginia, Florida and California's consumer collection and recycling programs in the last several years. Also, Mr. Arner did a used oil study for the International Executive Service Corp in Namibia in 2001. He has worked closely with the National Oil Recyclers Association, American Petroleum Institute and state government officials and was the national environmental organizer (Earth Day '80). In 1981, Mr. Arner testified before Congress regarding the Used Oil Recycling Act of 1980.

Mr. Arner has worked previously as a Pollution Prevention Specialist for Southeast RCAP, Solid Waste Program Manager for the Northern Virginia Planning District Commission, and a recycling coordinator for five eastern towns on Long Island, New York, the City of San Diego, and the Washington D.C. Energy Office. Additionally, he has worked as a private consultant for Recovery Enterprise and was an environmental scientist for Versar, Inc., in Springfield, Virginia.

For over 30 years, Mr. Arner has dealt with numerous facets of the used oil recycling industry and public education programs for the "do-it-yourselfer" oil changer. He has experience as a builder and plant manager of a used oil recycling facility in Alexandria, Virginia.

Mr. Arner has developed numerous innovative avenues of public education, recruiting such spokespeople as Mary Joe Fernandez, Peter Jennings, Jack Anderson and Wes Unseld. For the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, he has co-authored numerous used oil recycling newsletters, brochures, and a "how-to" manual for community action. He has also developed informational used oil recycling inserts and news items for several state motor vehicle tag renewals.

Mr. Arner has written and spoken extensively on used oil management and recycling, developing a network of private and public experts on this subject. He has a B.S. from the University of Maryland.

Copyright Rob Arner - All Rights Reserved.
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