Proper handling techniques are not just for new oils. Once the life of the oil has been exceeded, the next step comes into play how to handle and dispose of waste oil.
Waste Oil vs. Used Oil
Many people use the terms "waste oil" and "used oil" interchangeably. While both labels may identify the same fluid, from a regulatory standpoint there is a significant difference. Used oil is defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as follows:
"Used oil is any oil that has been refined from crude oil or any synthetic oil that has been used and as a result of such use is contaminated by physical or chemical impurities."
This applies to petroleum or synthetic-based oil that has been used previously. In contrast, waste oil has been contaminated and is deemed not usable.
Due to some of the additive chemistries, it is entirely possible that this mixture of finished lubricant and water would exceed the chemical limits and need to be classified as waste oil.
Oils that are off-specification typically contain arsenic (5 ppm), cadmium (2 ppm), chromium (10 ppm) and lead (100 ppm), as well as have a minimum flash point of 100 degrees F and total halogens of more than 4,000 ppm. This would qualify the mixture as hazardous waste.
Hazardous materials are defined in various ways under a number of regulatory programs, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), etc.
In addition to the EPA’s used oil management standards, you should consult with your local codes on what their requirements are for waste oil.
Hazardous waste disposal is a lengthy, costly and strict regulatory process. The only way to be sure your used oil does not become contaminated with hazardous waste is to store the used oil in a tank that is separate from all solvents and chemicals and do not mix it with anything.
The easiest way to ensure that you are in compliance and can avoid these fees and headaches is to label containers correctly. Unless it is truly waste oil, it should be labeled as "used oil."
Also, be sure to keep proper records. The EPA uses 12-digit identification (ID) numbers to track used oil. Transporters hauling used oil must have a valid EPA ID number, and generators, collection centers and aggregation points must use transporters with EPA ID numbers for shipping used oil offsite. Used oil transporters, processors, marketers and burners are required to keep records of each used oil shipment accepted for transport. These records for shipment must include:
- the name and address of the generator, transporter or processor/re-refiner that provided the used oil for transport;
- the EPA identification number (if applicable) of the generator, transporter or processor/re-refiner who provided the used oil for transport;
- the quantity of used oil accepted; and
- the date of acceptance.
These records are required to be kept for at least three years. It is recommended that you maintain these same records for the same period. As the ISO 55001 certification becomes more prevalent, this recordkeeping will be a positive step toward certification.
It should be noted that any used oil shipments less than 55 gallons do not need an EPA tracking number. However, special permitting may be required by state and local governments.
Facts About Used Oil
- The used oil from one oil change can contaminate 1 million gallons of fresh water.
- It only takes one cup of used motor oil to put an oil sheen on a 1-acre pond.
- The United States produces 1.3 billion gallons of waste oil each year, of which 800 million gallons are recycled. (Almost 40 percent is not being recycled).
- If all the waste oil in the United States was recycled in a single year, it would save half the output of the Alaskan pipeline for the same period.
- Recycled used motor 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 was recycled, it would be enough motor oil for more than 50 million cars a year.