Sunday, September 17, 2006

Happy Returns in Falls Church

Annette Mills embodies the gift of thrift. Ms. Mills’ transformed her community from a waste reduction rate of 39% in 1991 to a rate exceeding 65%. Because of her leadership, Falls Church has one of the best recovery rates in the country and a leading state recycling rate of 46%. For seventeen years, Annette has been a trail blazer for various environment improvements in the DC region.

Annette ingeniously enlisted the help of more than 130 citizen volunteers or “Recycling
Block Captain Program” resulting in many successes. Annette’s believes that education through personal contact is paramount to their success. She has created a “tipping point” by empowering many to serve as their community’s conservation leaders. In her words, “The most effective models are those people who are actively working together to build relationship with each other and the natural environment”.

Ms. Mills leads by example. Attending lunches, outside events or meetings, she brings her own reusable glass, plate, utensils, and napkin. Also, Annette’s programs are fiscally conservative. To quote one of the City’s council members, “…many of these programs have resulted in little extra cost and in many cases cost reductions.” Ms. Mills demonstrates frugality from another perspective. Her City’s solid waste management budget was reduced from $1.05 million in 1990 to $630,000 in 1997.

Annette helped initiate curbside collection of 14 types of recyclable materials and including various types of yard debris. The City saved more than $420,000 by implementing their curbside recycling program. Also, yearly she holds “Recycling Extravaganza” where residents drop off a range of specialty recycling items, including eye glasses, hearing aids, clothing and textiles, bicycles, printer cartridges, and electronics.

Annette makes it happen. One council member calls the community volunteers “Annette’s Army” because she brings them out in full force for community programs related to environmental education and stewardship. Ms. Mills has interconnected various positive environmental messages together. She has made saving resources attractive and easy whether it is planting a tree, composting at home or restoring wildlife habitats. Annette has initiated many successful public awareness programs welcoming citizens to show greater reverence for our earth. Annette not only walks her talk but has recruited numerous others to benefit with her. On your departure, Annette thanks for the many happy returns you have blessed both Falls Church and this region!

2006 Used Oil Recycling Update in America


In July 2006, the U.S. Department of Energy Used Oil Re-refining Study[1] indicates that the United States consumes about 25 percent of the total worldwide demand for lube oils. Congress mandated this inquiry under the Energy Policy Act of 2005, Section 1839. Most European countries are more advanced in reduction, reusing and recycling used oil. For example Europe has three times more re-refining capacity or the ability of making used oil back into a lube oils.

Millions Sources of Pollution

A key issue is the non point source of used oil pollution by oil changers. Presently DOE estimates that 80% of the Do-it-Yourself (DIY) used oil is improperly disposed into our environment. Also this study concludes that the annual volume of disposed oil has decreased from 426 million gallons in 1996 to 348 million gallons of an estimated million gallons in 2004.

This is an interesting finding since that amount of vehicle miles driven in the US and the number of automobiles has increased. While miles driven in the last few years has increased 8-9 percent this has been matched by oil change interval increases since now people do not change their oil at 3,000 miles rather every 5,000 miles.

Current Consumer Market

Total US motor oil sales have been flat several years now despite these increases. For the DIY portion, there has been little info in trade journals on DIY portion. DIY decline has been estimated is estimated at around.40% and or Do-it-For-Me changes are at 60%. It is important to recognize that this is the volume of oil sold to DIYers, and likely does not represent the number of DIYers. What is not clear if the DIY are driving many more miles between changes now or their numbers are dropping?

Oil Filters

Another curious finding by this study is that oil filters have a 50 percent recycling rate according to the Filter Manufacturer Council. While this may be true in California and some other states the economics to recover these filters make this claim suspect. A Florida study only showed a 22% recycling rate and a Virginia study showed only a 10% rate of recycling.

One good indicator to track actual oil changes instead of folks who buy motor oil to “top-off’ the engine is to follow oil filter sales. In 1998 there were 450 million light-duty oil filters sold in the United States, while 778 million light-duty filters were purchased in 2002.

Reusable Oil Filters

An average used light-duty oil filter contains on the average eight ounces of oil. Widespread adoption of reusable filter systems could virtually eliminate used oil being trapped in filters and prevent steel filters entering landfills.

There are reusable oil filters that are compatible with engines that use the one-piece sealed spin-on filter. No modifications or tools are required to install these filters on any engine that uses a spin-on filter, and they allow for the recovery of all used motor oil. The assembly housing is reused; only the paper element is replaced, and this can be easily recycled or burned for energy. If produced in volume, this filter could be manufactured for under a dollar per unit. At the point of final sale, the replacement filter element would cost somewhat less than the current spin-on filter. Reusable filters were popular up to the early 1960s and are still widely used in the racing industry.

Used Oil Burned vs. Reused

DOE estimates, 780 million recycled gallons of used oil each year, 83 percent is burned, while 17 percent is re-refined into new lubricating oil. It was found that re-refining used oils saved 8.1 percent of the energy content of the used oil compared to combusting the oil for heating purposes. Transforming all used oil that is currently combusted into lube oil products would save 63 million gallons of fuel oil equivalent per year; a savings of $63 million annually at current fuel prices.

Presently most used oil is burned for fuel in America and little is re-refined. Serious environmental and energy questions have been raised by the combustion of used motor oils in space heaters. This report cites that small burners do not provide levels of pollution reduction found in large scale industrial combustion processes since asphalt/ cement plants and steel mills have flue gas treatment technologies.

Policy Options

This study recommends a national workshop of state used oil management officials to exchange to stimulate active recycling programs to benefit from the experiences of those that have well established and successful programs. Also, encourage those states that have not yet passed used oil legislation to take action. This conference would seek to identify the best practices and guidelines for states to follow including funding mechanisms.

Also another need was cited was to assist rural and farming communities since urban areas appear to have more effective recycling programs in place due to closer proximity to recycling centers. DIY consumers in the rural and farming communities offer the highest growth potential for recovering additional volumes of used oils. Thus, increasing the recovery of DIY oil is an important factor in making substantial progress in

used oil recycling.

Targeting cost conscious DIY consumers with effective public awareness and education programs can communicate the benefits of recycling used oils. Also targeting non English oil changers, should also be given to the needs to communicate in a

foreign languages are dominant in specific areas.

South Carolina, A Example of Good Used Oil Management

South Carolina's statewide used oil recycling program targeting do-it-yourselfers (DIYers) continues to flourish. Through a combination of technical assistance and grant funding for local governments, the Office has helped develop one of the nation’s most comprehensive used oil recycling programs targeting DIYers.

For numerous years more than 1 million gallons of used oil was collected in 2003. DIYers recycled 1,124,199 gallons of used motor oil at more than 700 sites across South Carolina. Since the used oil recycling program began in 1990, DIYers have recycled more over 13 million gallons.

In addition, DIYers recycled hundreds of tons of used oil filters and more than 100 tons of oil bottles. Precise recycling efforts are not measurable as many counties now collect and market used oil filters and oil bottles with other metals and plastics, respectively. With this being the case, not all filters and bottles that are being recycled are being counted directly. Currently, more than 40 of the state's 46 counties accept used oil filters for recycling with most of those counties also collecting oil bottles for recycling.

To assist farmers with the proper management of used oil generated on the farm, DHEC continues to encourage local governments to establish oil recycling sites for farmers. Agricultural oil tanks typically hold 600 gallons of used oil and are fitted with a pump and hose in an effort to make it easier for farmers to deliver up to 55 gallons of used oil at one time. Such tanks are currently available at 24 sites in 21 counties.

South Carolina continues to expand its used oil recycling program by adding oil/gasoline mixture collection sites to the county programs. The oil/gasoline mixture tanks are typically 500 gallons and are designed to accept oil, gasoline and oil/gasoline mixtures from lawn equipment and recreational vehicles. Oil/gasoline mixture collection sites have been established at 25 sites in 22 counties.

The Office continues to provide local governments with oil bottle drain racks. Draining the oil bottles often makes them more marketable. Drained bottles can normally be mixed with other HDPE (#2) plastics. Just in California, quart bottles generate roughly one millions gallons of clean motor oil.

DOE Findings

DOE recommends accelerated tax depreciation allowances to expedite re-refining

and to expand re-refined lube base oil production capacity. Such financial incentives can be offered manufacturers to expand production capacity for a base oil end product that is suitable for blending either new motor oil and or industrial oil products. This incentive is not recommended for combustion end users. Finally, require automobile manufacturers to proactively state in owner manuals that re-refined oils are acceptable as a blending component in motor oils as long as they meet the API certification requirements.

Also this study encourages that federal agencies make additional volumes of used oils available for sale for the purpose of being regenerated to re-refined base oil. Furthermore, the government could explore entering into potential joint venture operation with private industry to re-refine those oils and produce products that can be supplied back to federal government agencies.

DOE suggests that the fed’s conduct an extensive study of used oil recycling programs to update what progress has been achieved. Also support initiatives such as programs for extended drain intervals (i.e. every 5000 miles), and enhanced oil filtering systems, and other energy conservation and environmental protection.


In closing the DOE study addresses how to minimize improper disposal of used oil in landfills, on the ground or waterways, and increase re-refining capacity and production volumes recognizing that re-refining maximizes the energy resource preservation with minimal impact on the environment.

U.S. Department of Energy Used Oil Study and Recommendations to Address Energy Policy Act of 2005, Section 1838 Office of Oil and Natural Gas Office of Fossil Energy

U.S. Department of Energy

[1], Used Oil Re-refining Study to Address Energy Policy Act of 2005 Section 1839