Used Oil and Filter Facts

General Facts

  • Used motor oil can contain toxic substances such as benzene, lead, zinc, and cadmium.1
  • The oil from a single oil change (1 gallon) can ruin the taste of a million gallons of drinking water (1 part per million), the supply of 50 people for one year.2
  • Films of oil on the surface of water prevent the replenishment of dissolved oxygen, impair photosynthetic processes, and block sunlight.3
  • Oil dumped on land reduces soil productivity.3
  • Concentrations of 50 to 100 parts per million (ppm) of used oil can foul sewage treatment processes.3
  • In the U.S., less than 60 percent of used oil is recycled.4
  • More statistics

California General Statistics

  • 1 in 5 households have a do-it-yourself (DIY) oil changer.5
  • As of July 2004, there are more than 2,600 State-certified collection centers and 70 curbside collection programs in California, which accept used oil for free. (Find your nearest certified center…)6
  • More than 98 million gallons of used oils were recycled in the fiscal year 2001-2002.7

Rerefined Oil Facts

  • 2.5 quarts of re-refined lubricating oil can be produced from one gallon of used oil.2
  • Re-refining is energy efficient–less energy is required to produce a gallon of re-refined base stock than to produce a base stock from crude oil.8
  • Re-refined oil prices are competitive to equivalent virgin oil products. 9
  • The United States Postal Service and National Park Service use re-refined oil in their vehicle fleets.9
  • The Department of Defense compared making lube oils from virgin base oil and used oil and determined using used oil was both more environmentally friendly and cost-effective.10
  • The U.S. Conference of Mayors has endorsed re-refined oil.11
  • More on rerefined oil

Oil Filters

  • Each year the U.S. generates 425 million used automotive oil filters containing 160,000 tons of iron units and 18 million gallons of oil.12
  • Recycling all the filters sold annually in the United States would result in the recovery of about 160,000 tons of steel, or enough steel to make 16 new stadiums the size of Atlanta’s Turner Stadium.13
  • Used oil filters can contain more than 45 percent used motor oil in weight when removed from the vehicle.14


  1. Toxicological Profile for Used Mineral-Based Crankcase OilPDF download, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, September 1997 (PDF file, size unknown).
  2. Recycling Used Oil: What can you do? U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response (OS–305), EPA/530-SW-89-039B, June 1989.
  3. How to Set Up a Local Program to Recycle Used OilU.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Solid Waste and Emergency Response (OS–305), EPA530-SW-89-039A, May 1989
  4. SynLube, Inc. website, as of March 2002.
  5. Outreach Research–Survey and Focus Groups: DIYers & Oil Disposal, Initial Results and Recommendations, CIWMB Publication #611-01-009, January 2002
  6. Used Oil Database, California Integrated Waste Management Board.
  7. Used Oil Recycling Rate Report
  8. Managing Used Oil: Advice for Small Businesses, Publication: EPA530-F-96-004, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, November 1996.
  9. Oil Does Not Wear Out…It Just Gets DirtyCIWMB Publication #611-01-002 (developed by Ross-Campbell Inc.), Revised July 2003.
  10. Department of Defense Re-Refined Oil PolicyPDF download, Presentation by Karl Weiss, Office of Deputy under Secretary of Defense (Environmental Security), pp 4-7, April 2000. PDF file, size unknown.
  11. Buy Recycled Training Institute: Best Practices Guide, U.S. Conference of Mayors, 2000.
  12. Feasibility Study for Recycling Used Automotive Oil Filters in a Blast Furnace (0041),  performed by Metserv for the American Iron and Steel Institute, January 2002.
  13. Recycling Used Oil Filters at the Shop, Steel Recycling Institute website.
For more information contact: Certified Collection Center, or Household Hazardous Waste,