Used Oil and Filters

An approach to end-of-life management

Typically, the oil filters are shredded and metals are extracted and sold as scrap, says Gudorf of Safety-Kleen Systems. These metals end up in the manufacture of rebar, cast metals like city water plates and manhole covers and other metal products, adds Jackson of Filter Specialty.

The used oil extracted from the filters is generally sold to used oil recovery companies, Gudorf says. An estimated 85 percent of used oil is cleaned, dehydrated and burned as an energy alternative to number 2 diesel or natural gas. A small percentage of used oil collected is re-refined and processed into an OEM approved engine or hydraulic oil.

Used oil is first tested to determine suitability for re-refining. In general terms, if deemed suitable, it is first dehydrated, a process which removes water which is then treated before being released to the environment. Next, comes vacuum distilling to remove contaminants such as dirt, water, fuel and used additives. This is followed by hydrotreating to remove the remaining chemicals and contaminants from the base oil to restore it to its original condition.

Once that process is complete, additives are blended into the base stock to fortify and bring the oil to the desired performance standards. These processes are similar to the processes applied to virgin crude oil.


When it comes to looking to contract with a used oil and used oil filter collection service, Filter Specialty’s Jackson advises making sure the company is EPA-registered and has proper insurance – with an emphasis on pollution liability – and a good safety record.

A shop should inquire about the compliance history of the potential recycler,” says Scott of Universal Environmental Services. Among the questions to get answered: How well have they managed the material they have collected in the past? Have they been a responsible recycler, or have they had violations resulting in citations and fines as a result of mishandling generator streams.

“As the generator of the regulated material, ultimately the shop is liable for the material from cradle-to-grave,” he points out. “A large misconception is the shop’s liability ends when a collector picks it up. In fact, the shop/generator is liable for the material until it reaches it’s destination of recycle.”

The cradle-to-grave system is the concept of accounting for hazardous waste from the point of generation until it is no longer hazardous (for example, treatment); it is destroyed, (for example, incineration); or it is disposed of (for example, placed in a landfill).

Safety-Kleen Systems’ Gudorf notes that since the cost of recycling used oil and filters is impacted by the rise and fall of crude and other related energies, the collection or recycling company performing the service must be able to sustain rising costs of handling oil and filters. “The fleet shop manager should consider the size and stability of the company that will be servicing them,” he says. “It’s not a guarantee, but size does matter when choosing a vendor in this industry. Smaller companies may find it tough to sustain in this market.”

Another key consideration, according to Gudorf is to know when and how often the shop will be paid for used oil collection, and what does the service provider do with the used oil and filters?

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