Recycling motor oil, oil filters and other automotive products
In Wisconsin, motor oil and used oil filters are banned from landfills.
Motor oil and automotive products
Environmental impacts of motor oil and other automotive products
Potential environmental impacts of motor oil, antifreeze, parts cleaners, lubricants, waxes, transmission fluids and other automotive products depend on the ingredients in the products you are using. Many automotive products may be toxic or flammable, so you must take proper precautions when handling. Products may pollute groundwater or surface water if disposed of improperly (i.e., poured down drains or sewers).
Too valuable to waste
Always try to use up motor oil. Oil never wears out and can be recycled. Recycling oil absorbents and used oil filters prevents pollution and recovers more than 1.8 million gallons of oil and more than 4.8 million pounds of steel annually in Wisconsin.
Legal requirements for managing used motor oil
Because used oil is easily recyclable, it is illegal to dispose of used oil in a licensed landfill or incinerate it without energy recovery (s. 287.07 (1m), Wis. Stat.).
Wisconsin's hazardous waste laws regulate the management of used oil. Household automotive waste is excluded from regulation as a hazardous waste under ch. NR 679, Wis. Adm. Code. However, if a household waste is managed separately by a non-household member, such as at a municipal collection site, this exemption no longer applies.
Your local government may have additional legal restrictions on throwing certain materials in the garbage or down the sewer. Homeowners should check with their local recycling program, public works or public health departments to find out about local restrictions.
Preferred handling options: recycle or safely dispose
The best handling options depend on the ingredients in the products you are using and the community in which you live. Read the label for proper disposal techniques and take personal responsibility for determining the appropriate disposal option. When in doubt, ask!
The following resources can help you find local recycling locations:
- Wisconsin Recycling Markets Directory (select "Motor Vehicles & Items," then choose the appropriate product category)
- Wisconsin county websites may contain contact information for public works, hazardous waste or public health departments or look in your phone book
Oil filters & absorbents
Oil filters and absorbents
State law (s. 287.07(4m), Wis. Stats.) bans landfilling of used oil filters. The ban applies to everyone in the state, including individuals, farmers, businesses, commercial or industrial facilities and other organizations. The law does not exempt any groups or classes of individuals.
Oil absorbent materials were originally included in the landfill ban, but it was later amended to allow landfill disposal provided there is no free-flowing oil in the absorbent material and the absorbents are not hazardous waste.
Used oil filters
The ban specifically covers filters from motor vehicles. These include oil filters from:
- tractors; and
- ATVs and UTVs.
Oil filters from other sources, like hydraulic systems and other machinery, are not covered under this ban, but we encourage them to be recycled as well.
Used oil absorbent materials
Used oil absorbents are defined as materials used to absorb petroleum-derived or synthetic oil that has been used or spilled.
- granular kitty litter-type absorbents;
- oil-dry cloths;
- paper toweling; and
- absorbent pillows, pads and socks.
Oil absorbent materials may be disposed of in a landfill if the following conditions are met:
- Waste oil has been drained so that no visible signs of free-flowing oil remain in or on the oil absorbent materials.
- The oil absorbent materials are not hazardous waste, as defined in s. 289.01(12), Wis. Stats [exit DNR].
Preferred handling option: recycle
Recycling is the preferred method of handling used oil filters. In some areas, there may also be recycling options for oil absorbents, especially in large quantities. Wisconsinites throw away an estimated 187,000 gallons of oil in used oil filters and 1.6 million gallons of oil in oil absorbents. Oil is a valuable, reusable material. Recycling used filters and absorbents preserve oil for reuse.
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