Used Oil Recycling 101

The Genesis

Whether you’re pro-oil independence or concerned about the environmental impacts of oil drilling, without any doubt, oil is a topic of attention. With crude oil seeking the most attention, the usual suspects, i.e, engine oils and petroleum-based lubricants are often overlooked.

You may not realize, but our daily activities such as driving your car around, mowing lawns, and using countless other tools and gadgets generate thousands of gallons of waste/ used oil each day.

Ever wondered what happens to oil once it’s been used and discarded?

Waste/ Used oil comes from different sources, including small and medium auto shops, manufacturing companies, electric generating stations, HVAC companies and mining companies.

If the waste oil is too contaminated to meet U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines for recycling, it is disposed of as a hazardous material.

Enough oil gets poured down sewers and drainage each year in an attempt to dispose it off, making it a threat to our environment.

The Alternative – Recycling

Recycling turns materials that would otherwise become waste into valuable resources.

Collecting used oil through proper channels is just the first in a series of steps that generates a host of financial, environmental, and social returns. Some of these benefits affect us and our environment on a local and global level.

According to the U.S. EPA, somewhere between 380 and 800 million gallons of waste/ used oil are collected by recyclers for reuse.

Several types of oil and other petroleum-based products can be recycled or re-refined, including brake fluids, motor oils, emulsions, metalworking fluids, transmission fluids, coolants, heating media, refrigeration and electrical oils and hydraulic fluids.

Whether you’re an auto mechanic operating out of your home garage, a small business owner looking to expand your income source, there are recycling options available to you.

They’ll green up your environment, and they’ll reward you with monetary benefits.

Recycling Process

At a glance, here is how it works –

• Used oil is pumped into storage tanks
• Followed by a dehydration process to remove water content and light fuel oil
• It then goes through vacuum distillation to obtain lube fraction
• Finally undergoes a treatment process to de-odorise and de-colorize the distilled lube oil fraction.

Different Types of Oil Recycling

Routine use causes oil to be contaminated with dirt, water, chemicals and various other impurities. Recycling oil is simply an attempt to bring it back to usable form. Through a variety of processes, impurities are removed from used oil so that it can be re-purposed again and again.

The term “oil recycling” is a broad label that can refer to many different processes for re-purposing used oil:

Reconditioning on-site – This process utilizes a filtering system to remove impurities at the site where the oil is being used, prolonging the life of the oil. This method is excellent for factories or other large operations that generate a lot of waste oil.

Inserting into a Petroleum Refinery – Used oil can be fed into the front end of a petroleum refining process to produce gasoline.

Energy Recovery Through Burning – In this process, the oil is filtered to remove water and contaminants and then burned to produce heat or to power industrial operations. This is probably the least preferred method of recycling oil, because once the oil is burned, there’s no way to recycle it again.

Re-refining into base oil for Further Use – Re-refined oil is de-watered, distilled and hydro-treated to remove contaminants.

The resulting product is virtually identical to virgin oil stock and does meet the industry required standards. Re-refining prolongs the life of the oil resource indefinitely, and this is the gold standard for oil recycling.

As an investor, what does this mean for you? In a nutshell, recycled oil is just as good for daily consumer requirements as virgin oil, and this type of oil has undeniable environmental, thus making it financially lucrative.

Benefits of Oil Recycling

The primary benefit of oil recycling is the appeal it has on conservationists and consumers across the political spectrum. The technology aiding the recycle of oil is a blessing to the environment and comes with great economic benefits.

And, as we’ve already learned, oil that’s recycled and re-purposed for the consumer gets the thumbs-up from standards setting organisations around the world. Let us quickly delve into the benefits –

a). The Environmental Factor – Whether home mechanics dump used oil into drainage/ sewers or unsuspecting homemakers spring an oil leak, waste oil too often makes its way into our environmental resources and contaminates our water supply.

This is unthinkable as the environmental impact can be devastating. When consumers and businesses understand the value of properly disposing of used oil, this valuable resource can be reused again and again, sparing the ecosystem of hazardous waste and securing the future of generations to come.

b). The Economic Factor – Recycling oil is cheaper than refining oil from crude. It takes 42 gallons of crude oil to produce 2.5 quarts of lubricating oil, but just a gallon of used motor oil for the same.

Recycling oil also reduces a country’s dependence on foreign oil; the more oil we recycle, the less oil we need to purchase from other sources, thus affecting the economy positively.

c). The Standards Factor – Recycled oil meets or exceeds standards set by the Standards Organisations around the world. It’s life span is similar to that of virgin oil. It also carries official approval of every major car manufacturer.

(except synthetic oil, that can’t be recycled.) Opting to purchase recycled oil might just be the most effortless and environmentally responsible choices you can make.

It’s good for the planet, great for the economy, and it doesn’t require any sacrifice on your part.


Used oil, if harnessed properly, can be a vital source of energy. It can also be a major role in preserving one of the world’s fastest depleting resource; Crude Oil.

If you have used oil and you would like to play your part in conserving the environment, check with your local auto repair or quick lube shops to find out if they will accept your used motor oil.

A small step can go a long way in protecting our natural resources and our future.