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How to Dispose of Motor Oil Safely

The best way to clean up spilled oil is to cover the oil with a generous layer of kitty litter, let it soak up the oil for a few hours (it will even pull some up out of the concrete or asphalt), then sweep up and properly dispose of the oil-soaked stuff. Next, squirt some liquid dishwashing soap onto the stain and scrub with a stiff brush; or on unpainted concrete, scrub the area with a solution of half laundry soap and half bleach. Wipe up the dirty cleaning liquid with paper or cloth towels, and rinse the area well.

Never dump oil onto the ground, throw it out with your regular garbage, or flush it down a drain. It’s a major toxic pollutant that needs to be treated accordingly. In many locales, putting oil filters into a landfill is against the law, so you may risk a fine.

So what do you do with your old oil? Decant the oil from the garbage bag that was in your collection pan into clean disposable containers with tight-fitting, screw-on lids — the bottles that the new oil came in or old, washed soda bottles work well. Place a funnel in the neck of the container, tie-off the bag, and hold it above the funnel. Then cut a tiny hole in a bottom corner of the bag and let the oil drain out of the bag into the funnel and container. You may want to cover the ground underneath the container with a thick layer of newspapers.

Oil recyclers probably won’t accept oil that’s contaminated with another substance or in a dirty container, so take it to a toxic waste disposal center.

The Steel Recycling Institute says that if all the oil filters sold in the United States each year were recycled, enough material would be recovered to build 16 stadiums the size of Atlanta’s Olympic Stadium! Many auto parts stores and some service stations accept old oil and oil filters for recycling. If you don’t have one close by, look in your local yellow pages for the nearest oil recycling center or toxic waste disposal center, or visit Earth911 or the Filter Council Web sites and enter your zip code.

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