Want some oil with that water?

In its "Safety Clicks" newsletter J.J. Keller, a provider of safety and compliance solutions to many industries, says the EPA estimates that two hundred million gallons of used oil are improperly disposed of each year. That fact may be harder to swallow when you consider that a single gallon of used oil can ruin one million gallons of fresh water and make it unfit to drink.

Used oil must be discarded properly, to keep it from contaminating the environment. That’s because used motor oil is insoluble, persistent, and can contain toxic chemicals and heavy metals. It’s also slow to degrade, and it sticks to everything from beach sand to bird feathers.

Recycling used oil is becoming the preferred way of handling used oil to protect the environment and conserve natural resources. Also, recycling makes more sense today than ever. Recycling saves money and protects the environment.

On the flip side, improper used oil management costs money. You pay in higher consumer prices, taxes for environmental cleanups, and increased health care costs.

Millions of people take their used oil to a recycling facility. Recycled used oil can be re-refined into new oil, processed into fuel oils, and used as raw materials for the petroleum industry. One gallon of used motor oil provides the same 2.5 quarts of lubricating oil as 42 gallons of crude oil.

If all the oil from American do-it-yourself oil changers were recycled, it would be enough motor oil for more than 50 million cars a year. Imagine how much foreign oil that would eliminate!

Here are some tips to handle used oil safely:

  • Don’t spill used oil on the ground, and be careful when transferring used oil
  • Put used oil in a clean plastic container with a tight lid
  • Don’t store used oil in a container that once held other hazardous wastes, chemicals, food, or beverages
  • Label all used-oil containers as “Used Oil”
  • Don’t mix used oil with anything
  • Don’t allow oil containers to rust, leak, or deteriorate
  • Take used oil to a location that collects used oil for recycling or know how to ship used oil off site, if necessary; and
  • Follow your state’s management standards for used oil and oil filters.

Be ready for spills. Here’s how:

  • Stop spills or leaks at their source or put the leaking oil in another container;
  • Keep clean-up materials such as rags, sand, booms, or clay kitty litter nearby;
  • Contain spilled oil by spreading sand or other clean-up materials over and around the used oil;
  • Buy and maintain reusable clean-up materials when possible;
  • Recycle used oil clean-up materials or send them to an energy recovery facility when possible;
  • Reduce waste and save money by using extraction devices (e.g., centrifuges or wringers) to recover used oil from reusable clean-up materials;
  • Remove used oil from rags or other clean-up materials and recycle the used oil as you normally would; and
  • Put used cleaning materials in the trash when they do not contain any free-flowing oil and when they can no longer be reused or recycled.

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