Programs encourage contractors to recycle motor oil

Environmental groups have been stressing to drivers the need to recycle their used motor oil for years, but what about used oil from construction equipment? Every time the oil is changed on a backhoe, it can generate anywhere from 8 quarts to several gallons of used motor oil, which is just as recyclable as motor oil from automobiles. The question is where to take it.

According to the American Petroleum Institute, two gallons of used motor oil can run an average household for a day, vacuum a house for 15 months or keep the television on for 180 hours. Large trucks and construction equipment can generate as much as 11 gallons of oil every oil change. Since one gallon of oil can pollute one million gallons of groundwater, it is important that oil, especially in such large quantities, is properly disposed of or recycled.

“It’s important that we collect it and keep it out of the soil,” said Sheri Powell, coordinator for Project R.O.S.E., the oldest oil-recycling program in the nation. “It eventually gets in our water.”

Programs like Project R.O.S.E., sponsored by the University of Alabama, have turned to contractors and equipment owners to increase awareness about the need to recycle used oil. The program donates giant recycle bins to collect the used oil in rural areas of Alabama where drivers, farmers, and construction equipment owners would otherwise have nowhere to take it.

Used motor oil has been contaminated by impurities such as heavy metals, sulfur, water, dirt and toxic substances because of its use in the engine. The oil is useable as long as it can be recycled and re-refined. At a refining center, used oil is slowly heated to separate water from the oil, and then that oil is filtered and blended with crude oil. Reprocessed oil is often sold as heating fuel to asphalt plants, cement companies and steel mills.

While most dealerships that change the oil in construction equipment recycle the old fluid, many equipment operators or owners who change it themselves don’t know where to take the old oil. According to James W. Garthe, agricultural engineering instructor at Penn State University, equipment owners should contact their local recycling coordinator or solid waste authority to find out about collection sites. Often counties will have designated collection bins at service stations or recycling facilities.

Dan Austin, superintendent of equipment maintenance for Bloomington, Ill., suggests having a waste oil company pick up the used oil. He uses Future Environmental, Inc., of Mokena Ill., which picks up used oil at several different sites once a month at no charge. Usually major oil companies or distributors offer such a service, or can put you in contact with a provider.

Another option is to ask a local equipment dealership if it will take the used oil, or take it to an auto store, such as Advance Auto Parts or Auto Zone. Both companies will take up to five gallons of used oil free of charge.

Wherever you decide to take the oil, check with the facilities first. Many places have quantity restrictions and do not accept oil that is contaminated by kerosene or gasoline.

To find out about a used oil collection center near you, call 1-800-cleanup or click on the link to the right.