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Because You Asked

Can Motor Oil Be Recycled?

By Recyclebank |

There is a rare chance to give a fossil fuel a second life.

Dear Recyclebank,

Why doesn't anyone recycle motor oil today? When it is time for an oil change on my modern car, it sometimes comes out almost as clean as it went in. I am tempted to use it without further refinement in my lawn mower. If you can refine crude oil, why can't you re-refine used oil?

-Art P.


Dear Art,

Motor oil is still being recycled into re-refined oil today and a few brands are available for purchase. It’s subject to all the same quality standards as newly refined oil and is more efficient to process. In fact, the EPA says, “It takes 42 gallons of crude oil, but only 1 gallon of used oil, to produce 2.5 quarts of new, high-quality lubricating oil.” With the U.S. going through about 1.3 billion gallons of oil annually, this can add up fast. It makes good economic and environmental sense to recycle your motor oil and to purchase re-refined oil when possible.

We recommend that you take your used motor oil to be re-refined rather than reusing it as is. While it may look clean, used oil will need to be refined not only for dirt but also water, heavy metals, and other trace elements and compounds that are not necessarily visible. If you are changing your car’s oil yourself, you can drop it off for recycling at an auto shop that accepts used oil (many do). The American Petroleum Institute has drop-off locator for locations that accept used motor oil for recycling. Whatever you do, never pour oil down a drain or on the ground! It is toxic to human and environmental health and can pollute waterways.

On the other end of the process, Valvoline sells re-refined oil under the name NextGen. It’s available at a number of major auto outlets and service locations as listed on the NextGen website, but they advise that you call ahead to make sure it’s in stock. If not, other brands may be available.

NYC Recycles
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Scientific American
American Petroleum Institute

Have you used re-refined oil in your car? Share your experiences in the comments.

Share with Your Friends & Family
  • tommy b. 7 months ago
  • Christine G. 1 year ago
    A local gas station accepts the used oil and reuses it for heating their business
  • Debra B. 2 years ago
    My husband recycles our used motor oil. Our recycler asks that it be placed in clear see through so we save empty gallon milk jugs just for this purpose. Win win for us and the environment!
  • Ann M. 2 years ago
    I second that mary B.
  • mary B. 2 years ago
    I can not for the life of me understand that some people are so stupid,that they would pour motor oil down the drain or on the ground. What kind of future are our children going to have to face?
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