Part of our quarterly Storm Water Series by Todd Sattison, WPC Program Coordinator
Recycling used motor oil benefits the environment, public health and the economy. It’s easy to understand how recycled motor oil could make an impact when you consider the damage non-recycled oil does today. Oil improperly disposed of in landfills, ditches or waterways, or dumped on the ground or down storm sewers can migrate into surface and ground water. It takes only one gallon of oil to contaminate one million gallons of drinking water. Oil can also seriously harm aquatic plants and animals, and can affect submerged vegetation, hindering photosynthesis. In fact, motor oil causes 40 percent of the pollution in America’s waterways. If more motor oil were recycled, water pollution could dramatically decrease.
One gallon of re-refined motor oil can produce 2.5 quarts of lubricating oil. It takes 42 gallons of crude oil to produce the same 2.5 quarts. It takes three times the energy to refine crude oil into lubricating oil than it does to re-refine used motor oil. Recycling the 180 million gallons of recoverable motor oil thrown away each year would produce enough energy to power 360,000 homes annually. Finally, if the 1.3 billion gallons of oil wasted each year by the United States were re-refined, it would save 1.3 million barrels of oil a day.
Recycling used motor oil also protects public health. Oil circulating through a car’s engine collects rust, dirt, metal particles and a variety of contaminants. Engine heat can also break down oil additives, producing acids and a number of other substances. Exhaust gases and antifreeze can also leak into oil when the engine is in use. The toxicity of oil greatly increases when any of these substances mix with oil. Public health can be seriously threatened if oil is disposed of improperly or if it enters the water or air.
Recycling used motor oil benefits the economy. Oil is a valuable resource that can be re-refined and reused in combustion engines. As oil is a non-renewable resource, it will become increasingly difficult to find new reserves in the future. Therefore, recycling will provide time to develop alternative fuels and lessen dependence on foreign oil suppliers.
Information contained in this educational article was obtained from the USEPA storm water web site www.epa.gov/npdes/stormwater. For additional information regarding your local storm water issues, please contact Todd Sattison, Program Coordinator at the City of Auburn Water Pollution Control, 2010 South Wayne St. Auburn IN 46706. (260-925-1714)