Used Oil - do’s & don’t s for DIY mechanics, workshops and service centres

Used Oil - do’s & don’t s for DIY mechanics, workshops and service centres

It is estimated that South Africa generates about 120 million litres of used lubricant oil every year. This is a large amount of used oil that, if not collected and recycled responsibly, could make its way into our environment and cause untold damage– considering that only one litre of used motor oil can contaminate one million litres of water.

With over 12 million registered vehicles on the road in South Africa (according to eNatis statistics) being serviced and repaired by large service centres, smaller workshops, backyard and DIY mechanics, there is a huge volume of used oil being generated in the automotive sector.

Service centres, mechanical workshops and DIY mechanics are being urged by the ROSE Foundation (Recycling Oil Saves The Environment) to gather and store their used oil for responsible collection by a ROSE registered oil collector who will come and remove the oil and take it to be recycled in an environmentally compliant and safe manner.

“Only use a licensed collector and ensure that the collector always issues you with a safe disposal certificate, which is now required by law under the Waste Act,” says Bubele Nyiba, CEO of the ROSE Foundation.

What to do with used oil:

  • Drain oil into a clean container with a tight fitting lid, such as a reusable combination drain pan/storage container. Use a specially designed plastic ROSE Sumpy to collect and store used oil in.
  • Empty oil containers and drums make effective makeshift storage vessels for used oil, however, DO NOT use a container that previously held chemicals, such as cleaners, solvents, fuels, paint or bleach.
  • Always clearly label the container “Used Motor Oil.”
  • The ROSE Foundation can subsidize cubic-shaped 1000 litre mini tank which make maximum use of available space, hold more oil and to make things even easier, the collections require no handling of the containers. Sealed couplings are used to pump the contents straight into a tanker truck so there's no spillage or leakage.
  • Keep these containers in a place that can be accessed by a ROSE registered used oil collector and keep the surrounding area clear and clean. Ideally store them under cover and away from heat or sources of ignition.
  • Keep oil change pans free of water and ensure your storage containers are tightly sealed and covered to protect them from rain water. Oil that is contaminated with water is far more difficult to recycle.
  • Ensure that you do not mix used oil with other fluids such as antifreeze, transmission fluid, petrol, diesel etc. Mixing them may make them non-recyclable as well as very hazardous and flammable.
  • Build a bund wall around bulk used oil storage tanks so that in the event of a spill or leak, the used oil will be contained. In the event of an oil spill, contact your used oil collector.

What NOT to do with used oil:

“Do not hand over your oil to anyone who is not a ROSE registered used oil collector,” cautions Nyiba.

“Used oil is used for various applications that potentially allow this harmful substance to make its way into our environment and there are no guarantees that unlicensed collectors will dispose of used oil responsibly.”

Some of the illegal uses of used oil , include using it as: a lubricant instead of WD40, a rust preventative wiped onto tools and machinery, a wood preservative painted onto fence posts and vineyard poles, a dust suppressant that is sprayed onto the ground, a weed killer, mange treatment and as a pest repellent for livestock.

A popular use for used oil is as a burner fuel/fire starter says Nyiba. “Most used oil in South Africa is recycled into a safe burner fuel - the recycling process removes the harmful heavy metals and carcinogenic compounds. Burning used oil before it has been processed means that you release all of these harmful compounds straight into the environment.”

“Do not pour your used oil down the drain, out into a storm water drain or throw it out onto the ground – all of these actions allow it to enter and contaminate the environment. Also, definitely do not dispose of it with domestic refuse.”

Related wastes in workshops

Nyiba advises that mechanical businesses must also not overlook related oily wastes such as used oil filters, oily rags, sawdust used to soak up oil spills, empty oil containers, spent greases etc.

“Many oil generating businesses in South Africa discard these related wastes along with the domestic refuse and are not properly storing them for safe disposal or recycling. Ask your ROSE collector to take away your related waste when they come and collect your oil. If their vehicle is not equipped to take this waste then separate your garbage so that you have a bin for domestic refuse and a separate bin for oily rags, sawdust, cardboard and drop this waste off at your nearest approved municipal garden refuse site – a list of which is available from the ROSE Foundation.”

“You can also ask you used oil collector to assist you with cleaning out your grease trap and transporting the contents off your premises. Alternatively there are businesses that specialise in a grease trap cleaning service.”

Nyiba explains that the safe disposal of hazardous waste has become a critical issue for business in South Africa with specific measures of accountability clearly being laid down in the Waste Act and the National Waste Information Regulations.

“There is a huge worldwide shift towards sustainable business practises in order to protect our environment. The legislation in place in South Africa means that responsible waste management within a business environment is no longer a nice thing to do but a necessary thing to do.”

For more information and to find out about a registered NORA collector contact the ROSE Foundation on (021) 448 7492 or visit www.rosefoundation.org.za.

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