Huge Potential to Increase Automotive Waste Oil Recycling

Mark Cawley, automotive sector director at Safetykleen discusses the importance of efficient oil collection and recovery in the automotive industry According to the Oil Recycling Association (ORA) the UK population uses around 700,000 tonnes of lubricating oil every year. With some 34.5 million vehicles licensed for use on UK roads, it is no surprise that oil consumption in the automotive industry accounts for a significant proportion of this oil usage. Approximately half of this oil production is potentially recoverable and there are strict waste regulations for garage owners that govern the recovery and disposal of this hazardous waste product. Despite the fact that it is illegal to dump engine oil or pour it down the drain, currently less than a third of all waste oil produced by motorists is recycled. This may be largely due to people self-servicing their own vehicles, however, the consequence is that around 13 million litres of waste oil is lost into the environment annually. Reasons to be careful One major reason why waste oil should not be disposed carelessly is that almost all of it typically finds its way to streams, rivers, groundwater and the sea. This poses a significant risk to the health of the environment, as just a single pint of oil can contaminate a body of water the size of an Olympic swimming pool. Another critical reason why it is important to recycle and recover waste oil is that it can be turned back into energy. If the 13 million litres of oil that mysteriously ‘disappear’ each year were to be recovered, it could provide enough energy for the annual needs of 1.5 million people. In recent years great strides have been made in improving the recycling process. Oil re-refining and the less expensive Processed Fuel Oil (PFO) – the process of turning oil into fuel, have changed the market dramatically. Oil has shifted from becoming a problem waste product, which was traditionally difficult and costly to dispose of, to a valuable commodity. Oil producing businesses now generate significant income from this waste and a typical garage, which might produce an average of 4000 litres each year, can yield annual rebates in excess of £300. For most independent garages this is useful income, however for some large multi-site garages, waste oil can generate a revenue stream in the region of £100,000 a year. Gold diggers Unsurprisingly, with waste oil’s new found value, countless ‘specialist oil recovery’ companies have sprung up offering to collect the ‘black gold’, with rebates of anywhere between 5-8p per litre. The danger with this is that most oil processors simply want the oil and they don’t necessarily care about the wider service elements that most garages demand. When you take a closer look at what garages actually need, yes of course a rebate or some form of revenue stream from oil is welcome, but more importantly for most is the need for compliance. Legislation for hazardous waste states that the duty of care lies with the garage owner or person who is discarding the oil, until the oil is no longer a waste product. Hefty fines are enforced for non-compliance. Most businesses want to know that their waste oil is dealt with in the most environmentally responsible and efficient way. It’s still a hassle they could do without. Garage owners also expect a timely collection. For most motor mechanics, oil disposal is the last thing on their mind and it’s often not an issue until there’s a problem – i.e. when the disposal barrel or tank is full – at which point they need a speedy response to avoid potential health and safety issues with oil overflowing in the workshop. It is important therefor that garage owners choose their collection service carefully to include all legal paperwork, ensuring full legal compliance. They should also consider the waste streams they need disposing of, such as oil filters, brake fluid and mixed fuels, anti-freeze, paint waste, tyres and batteries – and the collection intervals. Mark Cawley, is automotive sector director at specialist waste collection services specialist, Safetykleen Read More The Rechargeable Battery Recycling Challenge Carl Smith, CEO and president of Call2Recycle explains some of the market factors impacting the collection and recycling of rechargeable batteries. Responsible E-Waste Recycling Will Protect Environment & Create Jobs Wendy Neu from the CAER explains why the recent reintroduction RERA in the U.S. Congress offers the potential for U.S. jobs and a reduction in harm to the environment. The Great Recovery’s WMW Video Channel The Great Recovery project has published videos looking at the practical challenges of reusing and recycling e-waste, textiles and other waste streams in its new WMW Video Channel.