Once oil has been used, it can be collected, recycled, and used over and over again. An estimated 380 million gallons of used oil are recycled each year. Recycled used oil can sometimes be used again for the same job or can take on a completely different task. For example, used motor oil can be re-refined and sold at the store as motor oil or processed for furnace fuel oil. Aluminum rolling oils also can be filtered on site and used over again.
Generally, a common practice is to puncture the filters, drain the used oil into an appropriate container and then recycle the filters as scrap metal. The drained used oil should be recycled along with the used oil from the oil changes. Chapter 7 of Environmental Regulations and Technology: Managing Used Motor Oil (PDF)(84 pp, 6.09 MB, About PDF) provides a summary of the federal regulations and recommendations for used oil filters.
When service station dealers meet the following conditions, they are relieved from responsibility for costly cleanups and liabilities associated with off-site handling of used oil. To meet these conditions, service stations must:
Extraction devices (e.g., centrifuges, wringers, and compactors) can be used to recover used oil from reusable sorbent materials. Sorbent pads can be reused between two and eight times depending on the viscosity of the used oil. These technologies, while not required, can be used to reduce the number of sorbent pads ultimately sent for remanufacture, energy recovery, or disposal. The potential to reduce waste and save money (i.e., lower disposal costs for spent pads and lower per use cost of sorbent pads) by reusing and recycling sorbent pads can be substantial.
If you have used oil on rags or other sorbent materials from cleaning up a leak or spill, you should remove as much of the free-flowing oil as possible and manage the oil as you would have before it spilled. Once the free-flowing used oil has been removed from these materials, they are not considered used oil and may be managed as solid waste as long as they do not exhibit a hazardous waste characteristic. Note, however, that materials from which used oil has been removed continue to be regulated as used oil if they are to be burned for energy recovery (regardless of the degree of removal).
While there are companies that sell motor oil and also accept used oil for recycling, there is no federal requirement that motor oil vendors must also accept used oil for recycling. Your state might have more stringent regulations than federal EPA so be sure to reach out to them to find out. Check out our Links to Hazardous Waste Programs and U.S. State Environmental Agencies web page for their contact information.
If your business handles used oil, there are certain good housekeeping practices that you must follow. EPA developed required practices, called \"management standards,\" for businesses that handle used oil. The management standards are common sense, good business practices designed to ensure the safe handling of used oil, maximize recycling, and minimize disposal. Although EPA and the states may have specific requirements for different used oil handlers, the following requirements are common to all types of handlers. These requirements relate to storage, recordkeeping and to cleaning up leaks and spills, as follows.
EPA uses 12-digit identification (ID) numbers to track used oil. Transporters that haul used oil must have a valid EPA ID number, and generators, collection centers, and aggregation points must use transporters with EPA ID numbers for shipping used oil off site. If you need an ID number, contact your EPA regional office or your state director. Generators, collection centers, aggregation points, and any handler that transports used oil in shipments of less than 55 gallons do not need an ID number, but may need a state or local permit.
Used oil transporters, processors, burners, and marketers also must record each acceptance and delivery of used oil shipments. Records can take the form of a log, invoice, or other shipping document and must be maintained for three years. Re-refiners, processors, transfer facilities, and burners must have secondary containment systems (e.g., oil-impervious dike, berm, or retaining wall and a floor) so that oil cannot reach the environment in the event of a leak or spill. EPA also encourages generators to use a secondary containment system to prevent used oil from contaminating the environment.
In addition to EPA's used oil management standards, your business may be required to comply with federal and state hazardous waste regulations if your used oil becomes contaminated from mixing it with hazardous waste. Hazardous waste disposal is a lengthy, costly, and strict regulatory process. The only way to be sure your used oil does not become contaminated with hazardous waste is to store it separately from all solvents and chemicals and not to mix it with anything.
Certain used oil filters are excluded from regulation as a RCRA hazardous waste. Non-terne plated oil filters that are not mixed with listed hazardous wastes are excluded from the RCRA Subtitle C program if they are hot-drained by one of the following methods: puncturing and hot-draining; hot-draining and crushing; dismantling and hot-draining; or hot-draining by an equivalent method that removes used oil (40 CFR Section 261.4(b)(13)). Once these conditions are met, these filters may be disposed of or recycled as nonhazardous waste.
The definition of used oil in Section 279.1 does not include oil- based products used as solvents refined from crude oil or manufactured from synthetic materials. Petroleum-based solvents are viewed as wastes separate and distinct from used oil (57 FR 41566, 41574; September 10, 1992).
The Part 279 management standards apply to used oil until a facility disposes of the used oil or sends it for disposal. Used oil that is a listed hazardous waste or that exhibits a characteristic of hazardous waste must be managed as a hazardous waste under the RCRA Subtitle C program when it is disposed or sent for disposal. Conversely, used oil that is not hazardous must be managed as a solid waste under the RCRA Subtitle D program if disposed or sent for disposal (57 FR 41566, 41578; September 10, 1992).
Farmers that generate an average of twenty-five gallons or less of used oil per month from vehicles or machinery used on the farm in a calendar year are exempt from the used oil generator standards (Section 279.20(a)(4)). The exemption was established due to the similarities between small farms and households, whose solid waste management is unregulated by RCRA. For example, households and small farms typically have the same number of vehicles owned for personal use that require oil changes and both have residences on site that generate used oil and other exempt household wastes. In addition, EPA recognized that many family farms and small farming operations are not readily accessible to used oil collection centers. Therefore, EPA believes that farms who generate on an average twenty-five gallons of oil per month of used oil in a calendar year should be exempted from regulation (57 FR 41566, 41588; September 10, 1992).
Generators of used oil are not required to notify EPA or obtain an EPA identification number. However, if a generator of used oil is also subject to Part 279, Subparts E - H (i.e., transporter/transfer facility, processor/re-refiner, marketer, etc.), due to additional used oil handling activities, the generator would be required to have an EPA identification number (Section 279.20(b)).
EPA established used oil specification criteria that allow used oil to be burned in non-industrial burners without RCRA regulation (40 CFR Part 279.11). The used oil fuel specification lists maximum allowable limits for arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, and total halogens, as well as a minimum flashpoint (Memo, Cotsworth to Green; September 26, 1997 (RCRA Online #14117). The used oil specifications are as follows: Arsenic - 5 ppm maximum Cadmium - 2 ppm maximum Chromium - 10 ppm maximum Lead - 100 ppm maximumTotal Halogens - 4,000 ppm maximum Flash point - 100 degrees F. minimum Used oil that meets the above fuel specifications can be burned for energy recovery in any device without EPA restrictions (Memo, Porter to Blair; September 22, 1988 (RCRA Online #13224). The specification determination is made either by testing the used oil or by using historical analytical results (Monthly Call Center Report Question; July 2002 (RCRA Online #14624). A burner of specification used oil must analyze or use information to show that the oil meets specification and must comply with the recordkeeping requirement in Part 279.72 (57 FR 41566, 41597; September 10, 1992). In addition, the first person to claim that used oil meets specification is considered a used oil fuel marketer and must comply with the requirements in Sections 279.72, 279.73 and 279.74 (b) (Memo; Shapiro to Dixon; November 27, 1996 (RCRA Online #14110). The specifications do not apply to mixtures of used oil and hazardous waste which are regulated as hazardous waste (Section 279.10(b)). Additional guidance regarding specification used oil is available in the following documents:
Any oil that has been refined from crude oil, or any synthetic oil, that has been used and as a result of such use is contaminated by physical or chemical impurities is \"used oil.\" Recycled used oil is regulated in 40 CFR Part 261.6(a)(4) regardless of whether or not it exhibits a characteristic. Used oil that can't be recycled and is disposed of or sent for disposal must be managed in accordance with all applicable solid and hazardous waste requirements. Check with your state program to ask if your state is authorized for the Part 279 regulations.
Used oil transfer facilities are transportation related facilities where shipments of used oil are held for more than 24 hours but not longer than 35 days during the normal course of transportation or prior to an activity performed pursuant to Section 279.20(b)(2). Used oil transfer facilities include loading docks, parking areas, storage areas, and other areas (Section 279.1). Used oil transfer facilities that store used oil for more than 35 days are subject to the standards for used oil processors and re-refiners in Part 279, Subpart F (Sections 279.1 and 279.45(a)). Additional guidance on used oil transfer facilities is available in the following document: Monthly Call Center Report Question; February 2004 (RCRA Online #14702) 59ce067264