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Motor Oil Recycling Done Right

Motor Oil Change

Motor oil protects your car’s engine and helps ensure long vehicle life when the manufacturer’s full maintenance guidelines are carefully followed. For DIYers, changing oil and replacing the oil filter are one of the easiest maintenance tasks — something you can accomplish within 20 minutes. What you do after that is of critical importance — namely, disposing of the used motor oil. To that end, we’ll examine old ways of disposing oil, the adverse impact these ways have on the environment, as well as how oil recycling is a safer choice.

The Hazards of Dumping Motor Oil

For some people, getting rid of motor oil means surreptitiously digging a hole and dumping it on the ground or pouring it in a nearby stream. Illegally dumping motor oil can contaminate drinking water as just one oil change can affect one million gallons of fresh water, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Oil covered birds in Santorini (Greece) portMotor oil contains toxic chemicals and heavy metals, potentially carcinogenic when not handled properly. Oil is insoluble, slow to degrade and perpetually present. In other words, it never goes away, and the damage can be far reaching, long lasting and devastating.

Further, humans are not the only ones at risk. We’ve witnessed the impact massive oil spills at sea have had on the environment, particularly how it sticks to sand and feathers. Notably, oil leads to feathers matting and separating, causing birds to lose buoyancy and exposing them to dangerous temperature extremes, according to International Bird Rescue. Birds, fish and other wildlife may die; oil also introduces poisons into the food chain. We know a leaking oil tanker causes widespread devastation, but even a gallon of waste motor oil is destructive when not handled properly.

If you live in a rural area, dusty roads are the bane of country folk. Used motor oil, when sprayed on such roads, does a commendable job of holding down dust, but it also negatively impacts the environment. An environmentally sustainable alternative is to spray soybean oil soapstock, a biodegradable material.

Oil Recycling Done Right

These days, used motor oil recycling is easier to accomplish than ever before. Thanks to raised environmental awareness and government regulation, most communities have options in place for the safe disposition of oil.

For example, some towns collect used motor oil and oil filters curbside when citizens arrange for a pickup. Otherwise, your local recycling center should have containers available for disposing motor oil as well as for accepting your oil filter.

Other places that typically accept your used motor oil and at no charge to you include the merchant who sold you your new oil, service stations and quick lube retailers .

Instead of calling around for local disposal places, visit to identify nearby recycling centers. In the website’s search parameters enter “motor oil” followed by your zip code. A list of nearby locations is returned, making it easier for you to properly dispose your old oil as well as the oil filter.

Your Next Oil Change

If you haven’t changed your motor oil previously because of oil recycling concerns, your worries are over.

Check your owner’s manual to determine the best motor oil and the amount needed for your car. Among the tools required are: latex gloves, a funnel, an oil filter wrench, an oil drain pan, a wrench to remove the drain plug and ramps or a jack to raise your car.

Check out all the chemical products available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on oil recycling, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.


Matthew C. Keegan View All

Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.

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