If you want to skip this article and read the official government code, Title 40, Chapter I, Subchapter I, Part 279, you’ll learn everything there is to know about used oil disposal and recycling. For the rest of us, this article will serve as a brief guide to what you need to know about disposing of used oil and oil filters.
The oil change “discount”
Maybe you’ve had this happen to you: a sign is plastered outside your local quick-lube service: “Half off your next oil change!”—a seemingly great deal. You take in your car, stand in line in the lobby area and eyeball the chemically enhanced air fresheners that never actually smell like “New Car.” (What is that smell, anyway?) Finally, they ring up your tab, and it’s at least twice what you expected to pay. You smile knowingly and say, “Sorry, I think you forgot to add my coupon.” The guy behind the counter looks over his glasses and says, “Nope, that’s right.” Maybe he kindly explains that the hidden fees are related to waste disposal efforts for used oil. Maybe he just burps and blows bubbles with his gum.
Much to some people’s surprise, the fine print on certain so-called coupons and discounts on oil changes comes with baggage in form of extra fees. Most of these fees go toward the disposal of used oil. It’s not uncommon for half the cost of every oil change to be a cost-share with the business to cover EPA and state disposal fees.
Why are there fees?
Regulatory fees are in place to protect the environment and ensure bad stuff doesn’t get into our water, land, air, etc. To put things into perspective, the used oil from your last oil change is enough to contaminate one million gallons of water. Yikes! Now, it’s not BendPak’s official stance to get you riled up about the costs of doing business, because frankly there’s a way to turn all these regulations to your advantage and make a profit. We’ll get to that in a bit.
Government agencies consider free-flowing oil to be hazardous waste
In addition to federal EPA regulations, individual states can craft their own laws around waste disposal. California has recently tightened its shop oil regulations, and by “tightened” we mean imposed more punitive fees for businesses that improperly try to dispose of waste oil products.
Effective October 2016 (hey, that means the laws are in effect now), any oil filters that the government collects that have not been crushed, punctured and/or drained of oil will be subject to additional charges and fees than days past. Not only that, the government reserves the right to change a business’s generator status from “small quantity” to “large quantity,” which means heavier regulations and fees on top of heavier regulations and fees for all future filter disposals. Double yikes! It’s not just California: all 50 states have evolving laws around this. Fortunately, when oil filters are crushed and their oil is removed, you wind up with two items to recycle and/or re-purpose, often at a profit: the filters and the oil.
While it’s mainly the shops that stand to benefit financially for oil and filter recycling, individual DIY’ers need not worry about being fined for doing their own oil changes. In fact, stores like Wal-Mart, as well as most auto shops, will take your unwanted oil waste off your hands free of charge. Auto shops may be especially keen on this, as the collected oil can be re-purposed in different ways. Some shops keep their oil in-house and use it to power waste oil heating devices.
Oil filter crushers solve every business’s problem
If your shop regularly works with oil waste, there’s no reason not to have an oil filter crusher. We at BendPak / Ranger make a particularly good one with the RP-50FC Oil Filter Crusher. The most important feature of any crusher is how much oil it removes as it flattens the filters. The RP-50FC, for instance, efficiently removes 95% of residual oil. If you already have an oil filter crusher that doesn’t get the oil out to your state and federal governments’ complete satisfaction, you’re going to get fined, and your crusher will become a useless expenditure against your bottom line. As you should already know, the government will show no leniency when it comes to fee collection.
When oil filters are recycled, they are no longer considered hazardous waste. Steel producers will gladly re-purpose them as scrap feed. The waste oil itself can be re-purposed or re-refined into usable oil, avoiding hazardous waste fees, as well as the higher costs of constantly buying virgin oil. Some shops efficiently re-refine the same oil over and over again. There’s no limit on how many times oil can be re-refined, and re-refined oil is just as good as virgin oil.
When all is said and done, with an oil filter crusher, you no longer have to worry about paying exorbitant disposal fees. You’ll also be able to offer more competitive price points and draw a better profit from your customers because you won’t be paying half your profit to the government. So fret not, oil shops and DIY’ers. With the right attitude and plan in place, you’ll never have to pay hazardous waste disposal fees again. Cheers to that!