How to Properly Dispose of Motor Oil

Used motor oil can be recycled indefinitely, but only if it's disposed of properly. Here's how to do it safely and effectively.
used motor oil

So, you decided to become a DIY-er and change your motor oil yourself. And because you followed our guide, you completed the task flawlessly. But now you have a pan filled with used oil and no idea what to do with it. Fear not. Here’s how to properly dispose of motor oil.

Collecting Used Motor Oil

After you’ve changed your motor oil, you’ll be left with the aforementioned pan full of used oil. Some pans can be sealed shut, which makes the job easier. Otherwise, you’ll have to transfer the used oil into another container. Use the same container the oil came in if you still have it around. Otherwise, you should use a container made of polyethylene or a similar type of plastic. The container should also have never been used before. Oil that has been mixed with other fluids, such as gasoline, washer fluid, antifreeze and even water, cannot be recycled.

Once your used motor oil is in a secure container with a tight-fitting lid, it is ready to be disposed of.

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How to Properly Dispose of Motor Oil

Most often, the easiest way to properly dispose of motor oil is to bring it back to the store you purchased it from or your local auto repair shop. Many states require service and retail businesses that sell motor oil to accept used motor oil for recycling. This service is completely free for the customer.

Occasionally, these establishments may temporarily refuse to accept used oil if their tanks are filled. However, they are required to empty these tanks in a reasonable amount of time and inform customers when they can return to drop of the used motor oil.

Some towns and municipalities accept hazardous waste, including used motor oil, as part of their recycling programs. Contact your local department of sanitation to see if this service is available and, if so, follow the instructions (including packaging requirements and protocol) for the safe and timely collection of your used motor. Don’t simply place a jug of motor oil on the curb or in your recycling bin.

Improper Disposal of Motor Oil

It’s illegal to improperly dispose of hazardous waste, including motor oil. And for good reason. Even a small amount of used motor oil can contaminate drinking supplies and wreak havoc on the local environment.

Improper disposal of used motor oil includes throwing it out in the garbage, and dumping it on the ground, in the street or down the drain. It can result in heavy fines and even jail time.

How Is Motor Oil Recycled?

So, what happens to used motor oil? When properly disposed of, it’s recycled.

When used oil is recycled, it goes through a re-refinement process that removes any impurities the oil collected while it was being used. This essentially makes the oil as good as knew – restoring it to its original quality. The process is far more environmentally friendly than procuring new motor oil

Used motor oil can also be burned for energy production. This isn’t ideal as it only allows the oil to be used once. If properly re-refined, motor oil can be recycled again and again and again.

Looking for a service shop to drop off your used motor oil? Find the nearest AAA Approved Auto Repair facility here.

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