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How to Dispose of Used Oil

How to Dispose of Used Oil

Oil changes are a necessary part of owning a car or large equipment, but disposing of used oil can be a challenge. Used motor oil contains contaminants that can harm humans and the environment if they’re not disposed of properly. 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that used oil from one car oil change can contaminate one million gallons of fresh water—a year’s supply for 50 people. In this article, we will discuss the importance of proper disposal and the steps to take before disposing of used oil.

A technician in a blue uniform performs maintenance on an orange Toyota forklift. Article: How to Dispose of Used Oil.

Recycling Used Oil

Used oil can be re-refined, processed and burned, or inserted into a petroleum refinery. Used oil isn’t worn out or unusable, just dirty. 

Re-refining oil is the most environmentally beneficial option, because it prolongs the life of the oil indefinitely. Re-refining involves treating used oil to remove impurities. One gallon of used motor oil provides the same 2.5 quarts of lubricating oil as 42 gallons of crude oil.

When burned, oil provides the same amount of energy as provided by normal heating oil. Some oils can be disposed of by heaters, boilers, or burning, Never try burning oil at home.  

Used oil can also be sent to the petroleum industry, where it’s used as a feedstock into refinery production processes. 

How to Collect Used Oil for Disposal  

A technician in a blue uniform performs maintenance on a forklift. Article: How to Dispose of Used Oil.

  1. Lay down a tarp or plastic sheet under your work area. Position a proper container (such as a drip pan with a spout) on top of the tarp and underneath the oil pan to catch the oil as it drains. 
  2. Empty the filter. Oil filters also contain harmful contaminants and must be recycled properly. Before disposing of used oil, remove the oil filter from the vehicle, puncture it, and let it drain into the oil pan. Put it in a sealed bag or container. 
  3. Carefully transfer the oil from the drip pan into another container for storage. Often, the original container will be the best disposal container, but a polyethylene container will typically suffice. 
    • If any oil spills, use absorbent materials to soak it up. The best option is a commercial oil-absorbing product. For a smaller spill, you can use sawdust, clay cat litter, or coconut husks. 
    • Don’t put waste oil in milk cartons, juice containers, or other random containers. 
    • Motor oil that has mixed with other fluids isn’t recyclable. Be careful not to let oil mix with washer fluid, gasoline, antifreeze, water, or any other liquid. Make sure your storage container has never been used to store any other fluids at any point. 

How to Properly Dispose of Waste Oil

Keep your container of used oil in a cool, dry place. When storing or transporting it, make sure the container stays upright. 

Waste oil removal companies have the necessary equipment and facilities to dispose of the oil safely. The American Petroleum Institute Used Motor Oil Collection and Recycling has information about recycling centers. 

Your city may have a municipal hazardous waste facility, and you can check the website to learn what materials they accept. Many auto parts stores will also recycle used oil, filters, and oil bottles. 

Risks of Improper Disposal

Improper disposal of used motor oil can have serious negative effects on the environment and human health. Pouring oil down the drain or onto the ground can contaminate water sources, harm wildlife, and damage ecosystems.

Improper disposal can result in legal and financial consequences, such as fines and cleanup costs.


It’s crucial to properly dispose of used motor oil. Improper disposal can seriously harm the environment and human health. 

Recycling is the most eco-friendly option, but there are other alternatives. It’s best to return waste oil to a recycling facility. 

You play a crucial role in ensuring that used motor oil is disposed of properly. Let’s take action and make sure we dispose of our used motor oil responsibly to keep our environment healthy and safe for generations to come.


Hugg & Hall does not service, rent, or sell vehicles. We rent, service, sell, and provide parts for construction equipment and other large equipment.

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