Crushing Your Way to Savings

Reasons abound for recycling oil filters and their waste oil

Years ago, oil filters were simply trash, and the waste oil from them was a by-product that was burned in a heater or a costly disposable that a recycling company was paid to take away. Those days are over.

Recycling scrap metal and used oil is a big business now. The question is: Are you taking advantage of the value from old oil filters and recycling the metal and used oil?

This is where the purchase of an oil filter crusher – essentially a device that squeezes all of the engine sludge and oil out of a used filter and flattens it at the same time – can be a worthwhile investment.


The U.S. EPA and all states have environmental regulations that affect the management practices and disposal of used oil filters. Any business that generates used oil filters is subject to these rules.

Yet, some shop owners and shop foremen scoff at environmental regulations because an agent of the government never came through their door and scrutinized their environmental practices. Even small shops are not above being slapped with fines for everything from properly evacuating refrigerant to the treatment of automotive batteries. The way in which the government treats the way waste oil is stored and disposed of is no different.

Most shops, though, are careful to follow environmental regulations, but even still are sometimes unaware of the numerous regulations that govern the disposal of waste oil and oil filters. Although many states require that used oil filters be drained for a period of 12 to 24 hours, there are shops that drain oil filters for a few seconds and then throw them into the trash. These filters would be considered hazardous waste according to the regulations, so just trashing of them is, obviously, improper management of used oil filters.

These shops might say: “Well, no one is digging through my trash.” There is no reason to expose oneself to excess liability. Plus, there are financial benefits to the proper disposal of oil filters and waste oil.


While a gallon of waste oil can fetch prices as high as a dollar, and scrap steel as much as 50 cents a pound, an oil filter crusher offers a realistic return on investment in a modest period of time.

For example, the Ranger Products RP-20FC Oil Filter/Can Crusher costs around $1,300. An average oil filter is about half a pound of steel. The math for ROI is pretty simple. With two oil filters making up a pound, and a pound fetching about 50 cents in scrap metal, about 5,200 oil changes pays for the machine in scrap metal alone. There are also the added profits from recycling the increased waste oil that is squeezed out.

Depending upon what vehicles are in the fleet, larger motor oil and transmission oil filters may hold as much as a pint of fluid that cannot easily be drained out. Crushing eight filters using the RP-20FC yields a gallon of waste oil, paying for the machine after about 10,400 crushed filters.

An easy way to determine if your shop will have quick or slow ROI is to look at how many oil filters you buy in a year. Chances are for every oil filter you use, there is an oil filter that is replaced, which is a good candidate for the crusher. If hundreds, if not thousands, of oil changes and transmission services are performed a year, chances are that the ROI for the oil filter crusher would be relatively quick.


No matter the price, oil filter crushers essentially function in the same way. The device presses the filter under high pressure and squeezes the oil out and into a storage container. Filters are then crushed to about a quarter of their original size and disposed into a drum. The more the oil filter can be crushed, the more money that can be made via selling the waste oil.

Also, the scrapper might give you a higher price for the steel as he can fit more filters in his truck with less mess, which may otherwise cut into his bottom line.

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