Used Oil and Filters

An approach to end-of-life management

Maintenance shops are responsible for managing used oil and filters in a responsible manner and in accordance with all environmental requirements.

“The right environmental services provider can actually return used oil to the marketplace as clean, pure re-refined motor oil that can be reused indefinitely with no loss of quality,” notes Matthew Gudorf, director, oil collections and products, Safety-Kleen Systems, North America’s largest collector, recycler and re-refiner of used oil.

“Oil re-refining reduces greenhouse gases and heavy metal emissions when compared to burning used oil as fuel,” he says. “Re-refining is easier on the environment, is a better way to handle used oil and makes it a renewable resource. The fleet shop is able to capitalize on the ‘green’ benefits, thus differentiating them from competitors.

Gudorf points to several other valuable benefits:

  • Since used oil filters still contain oil when disposed, having them recovered by the right recycling company is desirable since the used oil would be recovered and possibly re-refined into new motor oil, not to mention the fact that this conserves limited space in landfills.
  • Re-refining used oil into new engine oil helps reduce the country’s dependency on foreign crude.

Having a used oil and used oil filter collection and recycling service is like a insurance policy, adds Charles Jackson, president, Filter Specialty, a company that provides used oil and used oil filter recycling services. “When companies set up shop or lease a building, they have exposure to contamination of used oil, and when selling properties, a shop needs to provide where all their waste steams are going. By recycling, companies can be protected from litigation in case of property pollution issues.”

Used oil is a commodity that presents value for the generator, Universal Environmental Services’ Scott points out. “The value of the material is often determined by several factors, such as water content and sediment, and the drier the material the higher the potential value. In most cases, the material will be recycled into an alternative fuel source so contaminates would alter a fuel often de-value the material.”

“Unless a shop uses a waste oil heater to burn their on-site waste oil, it can get money back,” says Jackson of Filter Specialty.


Generally, used oil tanks and used filter containment bins are the responsibility of the generator of the material, says Scott of Universal Environmental Services. “In some cases, due to collection capability, a collector will provide larger containment for used filters. This is often the case in higher volume shops. A larger capacity filter bin is the preferred containment, resulting in less required pick ups of the material.

Filter Specialty provides drums or bins for used oil filters but lets each shop provide storage for waste oil. It also gives suggestions on the placement of containers.

Due to the weight of the used filters, vendors typically provide the bins, and many do so at no charge, Safety-Kleen Systems’ Gudorf says. Used oil tanks are not typically replaced when changing service providers.

“The fleet shop manager should, however, evaluate their used oil storage tanks to ensure they have proper containment and fittings to prevent loss or spillage while pumping from the oil truck,” he advises. “Most oil recycling companies can provide a tank if needed.”

Used oil filters need not to be drained and crushed before they are recycled, as long as the used filters are being stored in a drum or bin, says Gudorf. Draining the oil filter is only required if the fleet shop decides to throw oil filters in the trash.

“Crushing is not a requirement, Universal Environmental Services’ Scott adds. “However, it does insure the majority of the residual oil is captured. If the shop elects to have the filters recycled, neither hot draining nor crushing is required. Any residual oil will be captured and recycled during the filter recycling process.”


Ever wonder what happens with the collected used oil and used oil filters?

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