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How to Recycle Your Used Motor Oil


The very first thing my dad taught me when I got a new car was how to change my own oil. It’s a great skill to have, but his lesson skipped an important step: how to recycle used motor oil.

I’ll admit that, until recently, I had no idea that motor oil could be recycled. I also didn’t realize that motor oil never goes bad—it just gets dirty. That means used oil can be re-refined into base stock for lubricating oil, and it can be recycled over and over again.

What about you? Have you ever recycled your used motor oil after changing your car’s oil? What about asking the local mechanic what they do with the oil? Most people are too busy to even remember to change their car’s oil, let alone think about recycling the used oil. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that over 200 million gallons of motor oil are improperly disposed of.

That can have a huge environmental impact. The used oil from just one oil change can contaminate 1 million gallons of fresh water—a full year’s supply for 50 people. If, like me, you change your oil every 3,000 miles (as recommended), you might have roughly three or four oil changes every year. That’s a lot of oil that could contaminate the earth if disposed of improperly.

The good news is, it’s easier to recycle your motor oil than you might think, and there are some amazing environmental benefits that you’ll want to consider the next time your “check oil” light turns on.

The Benefits of Recycling Motor Oil

• It prevents it from polluting our ground water supply and soil.
• It saves energy because it takes less energy to recycle used motor oil than to make new.
• It takes something old and turns it into a reusable resource. Reprocessed oil can be used in furnaces or power plants to generate heat and electricity.

Fact: If you recycle just two gallons of used oil, it can generate enough electricity to run the average household for almost 24 hours (Recycle Oil).

How to Recycle Used Motor Oil

1. If you’re changing your own oil, pour your used oil into an empty container—this is a great way to reuse the new motor oil bottles you’ve just emptied.

2. Check online or call 1-800-CLEANUP for a list of local drop-off centers near you.

3. Ask your local auto parts store if they accept used oil and filters.

4. If you’re not a DIY person and you stop in for a professional oil change, inquire about their process of disposing and recycling oil filters and used motor oil. Their answer may help determine whether or not you decide to use their services or look elsewhere.

Just as changing your oil is vital to the health of your car, recycling that oil is crucial to keeping the earth clean. Once you realize how easy it is to recycle motor oil, you’ll never consider disposing of it any other way.

Sommer Poquette is the Green and Clean Mom who shares her tips on recycling and DIY green tips for Home Depot. She writes her eco-friendly advice from her home in Michigan. If you're changing and recycling your car's oil, you can view Home Depot's selection of motor oils on the company's website.

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