All about oil

Disposing of used motor oil

By the time you drain the oil out of your engine, it is more than just used up and dirty. It is also contaminated enough to classify as a hazardous waste. That means it is illegal to dump it on the ground, into the gutter, down a drain, or into the trash.

The key to proper disposal of waste oil is to find someone who handles it. Some auto parts stores, repair shops, and service stations will accept used motor oil, but many are hesitant to do so because if there is any pesticide (or other halogenated compounds), water, brake fluid, coolant, or other non-oil liquid mixed in with the oil, it oftentimes cannot be recycled, which means that it must be taken to a Class 1 toxic waste site. If even a small amount of polluted waste oil is introduced into a large holding tank of pure waste oil, it may be enough to taint the rest of the oil beyond redemption.

If you do not know anyone in your area who recycles used oil, contact your local city hall, fire department, or public works department. Many locales now have periodic hazardous waste round-ups, at which motor oil and other household wastes can be properly disposed.

In spite of growing environmental awareness, millions of gallons of waste oil are illegally dumped each year — an amount roughly equivalent to the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska. This translates to billions of gallons of ground water contamination, and to other negative side-effects that we are only now beginning to discover.

Proper handling of waste oil should be at the top of every enthusiast's list.