How to Recycle Oil & Oil Filters

An Overview On Recycling Used Oil and Oil Filters

It’s that time again - time to do an oil change. And with that regular little auto maintenance task comes the inevitable waste - the used oil and the oil filter. What do you do with this type of waste? Can you recycle oil and oil filters? Yup! Today recycling this type of auto waste is relatively simple, and we’ve got all of the information you need to make the job quick and painless.

Why you should recycle oil and oil filters

If we’ve learned anything from environmental disasters like the BP Deep Horizon Oil Spill and the Exxon Valdez, it’s that when oil enters the environment, it can harm wildlife, turn beaches into ghost towns, and create eco problems for decades to come. The motor oil that comes out of your vehicle is just as much of a concern. Though you’re only one person, when combined with the 600 million gallons of oil purchased in the US annually, there’s a huge potential for one widespread oil spill if not handled properly.

  • Non-renewable: Since most motor oil is either petroleum-based on synthetic, it is inherently non-renewable and therefore unsustainable.
  • Contaminants: As oil is used, it becomes contaminated with other chemicals like heavy metals, polycyclic aromatic compounds, additives, glycol, vehicle fluids, and so on, all of which can harm humans and animals when it enters the environment without treatment.
  • Wasted resource: Though used motor oil is “dirty”, it can still be used if it is properly reconditioning and refined, thus prolonging its life. When thrown away, it represented a huge waste of resources, especially since recycling oil takes less energy, money, and other natural resources.
  • A little goes a long way: Just one gallon of motor oil can create an oil slick 8 acres in size, contaminate 1 million gallons of freshwater, or turn 4 acres of usable soil into wasteland.[1]

How to recycle used oil

In the US alone, there are more than 380 million gallons of used oil recycled annually.[2] When you recycle motor oil, it has the potential of becoming many new things:

  • Fuel for incinerators and power plants
  • New oil for vehicle use
  • New petroleum-based products

If you like to tinker with your vehicle, recycling your used oil at home works like this:

  • Drain the oil out of your vehicle into a clean, secure pan, then transfer it into a clean, dry container with a screw-top lid.
  • Label the container so that you remember what’s in it.
  • Then take it for recycling either at your local recycling facility or to a nearby auto repair shop (they may charge you a fee). You may also need to recycle your used motor oil at regular household hazardous waste collection events - ask your local solid waste authority when one of these is likely to take place.

If you take your car to have its oil changed at a local Jiffy Lube or other lube station, they’ll likely have oil recycling programs, but be sure to confirm this before booking an appointment or sitting in line for your oil change.

What’s involved with oil filter recycling?

Just as important as used motor oil in terms of auto part recycling are those old oil filters. Start by carefully removing the filter and then drain any excess oil into the container you used to collect your used motor oil. You may want to “hot drain” it by puncturing it in the anti-drain back valve. Let it drain for at least 12 hours. Then check with the following recycling options to see if they’ll accept used oil filters:

  • Local recycling facility
  • Neighborhood lube shop (fees are sometimes charged)
  • Nearby auto parts store (they may charge a fee)
  • Regular household hazardous waste events in your community

Our recycling database has other resources for recycling oil filters



1 The importance of used motor oil recycling. (n.d.). Retrieved August 6, 2010, from Fox News:

2 Managing Used Oil: Advice for Small Businesses . (n.d.). Retrieved August 6, 2010, from US Environmental Protection Agency:

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