man pouring oil into car engine.

How to dispose of engine oil

Used engine oil is a type of hazardous waste, which can harm human health and the environment if it’s not disposed of properly. As oil flows through an engine, it picks up dirt, chemicals, and other contaminants, becoming less effective until it eventually needs changing. What you do with used engine oil next is important.

If you run a garage, farm, factory, or any other business that deals with vehicles and machinery, you can quickly accumulate lots of old engine oil. Even at home you might change your car’s oil and want to know what to do with old engine oil. The good news is that engine oil can and should be recycled.

Learn how to dispose of engine oil from your business or home responsibly in this guide.

Why is recycling 
engine oil important?

Engine oil doesn’t wear out or go off – it simply gets dirty by picking up dirt, metal scrapings, water, chemicals, and other contaminants. Over time these build up and reduce its effectiveness. But it can be cleaned (re-refined) and recycled to use again, which saves on energy and resources otherwise used to source new oil.

Used engine oil can be re-refined into new oil, processed into fuel oils, or the petroleum industry can use it as raw materials. This saves a valuable resource and reduces the amount of new crude oil that needs extracting to create fresh motor oil.

Recycling engine oil is also important as it’s a type of hazardous waste. Improper disposal – such as pouring engine oil down a drain – will pollute waterways as it contains toxic chemicals and heavy metals. Engine oil is insoluble, slow to degrade, and sticky, causing sand and bird feathers to stick together if it pollutes the environment.

Any engine oil in landfill will release toxic elements – such as benzene, lead, chromium, arsenic, and dioxins – leaching into and contaminating the ground. Engine oil recycling avoids it ending up in landfill, polluting the ground, drinking water sources for both humans and wildlife, and causing negative health effects.

How to dispose 
of old engine oil

Commercial engine oil disposal

Garages and other businesses dealing with vehicles should have experts who know how to drain engine oil safely and effectively from any cars, tractors, or machinery. When drained, you should safely store it in an engine oil container or barrel with a secure lid to avoid contamination from rainwater or other elements.

Businesses must then arrange waste engine oil collection by a licensed waste carrier. They will come and remove any containers or barrels, then safely and legally transport them to an appropriate nearby facility for re-refining and recycling. This ensures any engine oil waste you produce is disposed of safely and in line with relevant laws and regulations.

Domestic engine oil disposal

At home, most people take their car to a garage for a specialist to drain used engine oil. If you try it yourself, have an engine oil spill kit ready and a drip tray. Put any waste engine oil in the engine oil container that it first came in and store in a safe, sheltered place.

If you can’t find the original bottle or barrel that the engine oil came in, use a clean and dry plastic or metal container. Avoid any containers that held household chemicals or other automotive fluids, as this could cause contamination (even when thoroughly cleaned). Ensure it has a secure lid and is leak free to prevent spillages when taking it for recycling.

How to recycle 
used engine oil

The easiest way for businesses to recycle used engine oil is to arrange collection by licensed waste carriers. Store it in an appropriate container and they can collect at an agreed time and transport it to a nearby recycling facility. Companies such as Business Waste even deliver free containers for you to fill with old engine oil – just pay for collection.

You should receive a free consignment note at the point of collection, as engine oil is a type of hazardous waste. This proves it’s disposed of safely and appropriately, creating an audit trail of what happens to your waste engine oil. Another option is for any registered waste carriers in you organisation to directly transport waste oil to a nearby recycling facility.

When you’re recycling used engine oil at home, take it to your local oil bank. The Oil Care Campaign has a free online tool to find your nearest location. Otherwise, check whether your local council recycling centre accepts engine oil. Both these methods ensure your old oil goes to an appropriate facility for re-refining rather than landfill.

engine oil stick wiped on cloth.

How is used 
engine oil recycled?

Used engine oil is essentially cleaned of any dirt and contaminants at a specialist licensed facility, then reused. It’s recycled and refined into new motor oil, lubricants, fuel oil, or used as a raw material. While the dirt in old oil is disposed of, any metals and certain other contaminants may also be recycled.

The process to refine and recycle used engine oil is:

  • Dewatering – the dirty engine oil is placed in a large settling tank that separates the water and oil, so the water can be extracted.
  • Filtering – inorganic material, solids, and some additives are filtered out and demineralised to give a cleaner burner fuel for more refining.
  • Propane deasphalting – heavier bituminous fractions are extracted to create a clean re-refined base oil.
  • Distilling – the oil is boiled to separate different components in the oil to create re-refined oil that’s fit to use as the likes of a lubricant or fuel oil.

What can old engine oil 
be used for?

Once cleaned and re-refined, recycled engine oil can be used as:

  • Re-refined base oil for a lubricant, transformer, or hydraulic oil
  • Industrial burner oil
  • Bitumen-based products
  • An additive in manufactured products
  • Mould oil (to release products from their moulds)
Learn more about waste oil collection
old mobil oil can.

Arrange waste engine oil collection

Recycle any engine oil waste you produce with Business Waste. We provide free containers to store your used oil in – just pay for collection. Get the right size and number of barrels, drums, or other engine oil containers delivered to your business anywhere in the UK to fill and store safely on site.

Then arrange collection either as a one-off or on a daily, weekly, or fortnightly schedule if your company generates lots of waste motor oil. Our licensed waste carriers will collect your old oil and transport it to a nearby specialist facility for re-refining and recycling. Enjoy peace of mind that your old engine oil is recycled safely, legally, and in an eco-friendly way.

For a free quote for engine oil disposal wherever your business is in the UK and whatever industry you work in, contact us online or call 0800 211 8390 today.

Learn more about 
waste oil recycling

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