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Motor Oil Recycling

December 11th, 2017 - 12:59 PM

What do you do with used motor oil?

U-Pack knows all about the do-it-yourself life — we specialize in DIY moving, and we know our customers do many of their own home projects and vehicle maintenance. If you’re doing your own oil changes, you may be wondering what to do with the old engine oil, filters and containers. Because oil doesn’t wear out (it just gets dirty), it can be recycled and used again.

motor oil recycling

The importance of oil recycling

Oil disposal was common years ago, but as scientists learned about the environmental impact of throwing it away, several regulations were enacted to help avoid contaminating land and water. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the used oil from one vehicle can contaminate over 1,000,000 gallons of water.

Recycling removes impurities and makes oil usable again, and there are a few different ways it’s done. However, you don’t have to worry much about how it’s recycled. You just have to correctly capture and store it, then take it to a recycling center. The EPA estimates that if DIYers recycled their oil each year, it would produce enough to reuse in 50 million cars. So if you have a container of used oil sitting around, take it in!

How to recycle motor oil

To recycle used engine oil, you need to take precautions when collecting and storing it. It can be recycled from vehicles, boats, lawn mowers, motorcycles, ATVs, farm equipment and other engines.


Take caution against spills

You want to contain as much oil as possible, so be careful not to spill. Make sure you have a container ready to catch the drained oil and avoid overfilling. Storage containers can be plastic, but they shouldn’t be containers that once held chemicals or food (that can contaminate the oil and make it unrecyclable). You can use the original container, a new plastic air-tight container or a commercial oil storage container. Keep containers in good condition, and label them “Used Motor Oil.”

Properly treat spills

If any oil spills onto the ground, soak it up immediately. Use cat litter, diatomaceous earth or a commercial absorbent, and then keep the soaked matter in a sealed container, like a coffee can. Contact your local trash collection agency for regulations on disposing of this material. In some areas, it is illegal to put flammable materials like this in the trash. Instead, you might have to take it to the landfill or a hazardous waste site. If you used rags or paper towels to wipe up any of the spill, you can usually dispose of those as long as they don’t contain free-flowing liquid.  


Full containers

Keep stored oil in a safe area, away from children, pets, heat sources and the elements. You can store oil for as long as you want before taking it in, but it may be best to take in smaller amounts so it’s easier to transport.

Oil filter

Oil filters are made of paper, plastic and steel, and they can be recycled as well. Because they contain flammable material, they shouldn’t be thrown away. Store the filter in a sealed container like a plastic zip-top bag, a coffee can or a plastic container. Clearly label the container “Drained Used Oil Filter” and store it for up to a year.

Where to take oil for recycling

So, you have oil, filter and containers safely stored following an oil change — now where do you take them for recycling? In most cases, you can return them to the store where they were purchased. Most auto parts shops accept oil for recycling, but some facilities may require a receipt or proof of purchase to accept them (and there may be limits to the amount you can drop at one time). Vehicle repair shops may also take oil, especially if it’s a small amount from a DIY change. Lastly, your city, county or other municipality may have facilities that accept these types of recyclables.

Find oil recycle centers

You can search online for the nearest facilities that take oil, filters and containers. We recommend contacting the locations you find in a search to verify that they still accept drop-offs and ask about any specific guidelines they have.

Have questions about recycling your used motor oil?

If you have questions about safely storing oil or taking it to a recycling center, leave us a comment below. We’re happy to help find the answer.