Protecting the environment: Used oil generators urged to recycle responsibly

Picture: Supplied

Picture: Supplied

Published May 25, 2021


As June marks National Environment Month, protecting our ecosystems falls firmly in the spotlight.

Of particular importance, is ensuring that hazardous waste does not pollute the natural environment.

Used lubricating oil is a hazardous waste that, if irresponsibly dumped, can severely contaminate our water resources.

One litre of used oil can contaminate a million litres of water. Used oil contains harmful compounds such as iron, tin, copper, zinc as well as many other hazardous organic molecules.

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In light of this, the ROSE Foundation (Recycling Oil Saves the Environment) – an industry body that has been championing the responsible collection and recycling of used oil for 27 years - is calling on South African businesses which generate used motor lubricant oil, to become agents of change and ensure that they do their part to protect the environment by responsibly collecting, storing and recycling the used oil they generate.

Bubele Nyiba, CEO of the ROSE Foundation, explains that some South African businesses which generate used motor oil dispose of it improperly and illegally. “Often oil ends up in landfills or down drains. Some used oil generators sell their oil to unlicensed processors or end-users. It is often used as burner fuel for furnaces, painted onto vineyard and fence poles as a wood preservative, or sprayed onto dirt roads as a dust suppressant.”

Because of this, the storage, disposal and recycling of used oil are strictly governed by environmental laws under the National Environmental Management: Waste Act No. 59 of 2008.

“More than ever, we are calling on larger businesses which generate large volumes of used lubricating oil, as well as informal “backyard” mechanics and DIY repair enthusiasts be vigilant about what they do with their used oil and to track where it ultimately ends up,” says Nyiba.

In terms of the Act, the foundation advises that used oil must be properly stored until it can be removed for recycling or taken to a drop-off point.

This includes draining the oil into a clean container with a tight-fitting lid, such as a reusable combination drain pan/storage container or drum. Empty oil containers and drums make effective storage vessels for used oil, however, do not use a container that previously held chemicals, such as cleaners, solvents, fuels, paint or bleach. Always clearly label the container ‘Used -Lube Oil’.

Used oil containers must be kept in a place that can easily be accessed by a ROSE registered used oil collector and keep the surrounding area clear and clean.

“Ideally store your containers under cover and away from heat or sources of ignition, and if you generate large quantities of used oil, build a bund wall around your bulk used oil storage tanks so that in the event of a spill or leak, the used oil will be contained,” says Nyiba.

Used oil generators must ensure that the oil is either collected by a ROSE registered oil collector who will come and remove the oil and take it to be recycled in an environmentally compliant and safe manner.

“Your collector must always issue the generator with a safe disposal certificate as required by the Waste Act. The safe disposal certificate also acts as a Hazardous Waste Manifest, thereby fulfilling the requirements of reporting by law,” says Nyiba.

“The responsibility lies with the generator to ensure that the person who collects their used oil complies with legal requirements for transportation of used oil and can provide the required Safe Disposal Certificate and Hazardous Waste Manifest, and failure to do so can result in fines and prosecution.”

For those who generate smaller volumes of used oil, there is the option to drop off the oil at selected AutoZone stores and various motor service centres countrywide. A list of the drop off points can be found here.

“The safe disposal of hazardous waste has become a critical issue in South Africa to protect our environment, and the legislation in place means that responsible waste management is no longer a nice thing to do but a necessary thing to do,” says Nyiba.

“As the organisation that has championed the responsible recycling of over 1.5 billion litres of used oil, the ROSE Foundation is committed to being a captain of change and ensuring we stimulate awareness and behavioural transformation within the used oil industry.

“ROSE has been actively recruiting used-oil collectors to join the organisation so that we can assist them, and their customers, with waste legislation compliance, and despite the Covid-19 pandemic, in 2020 we recorded the second-highest collected used oil volumes since ROSE’s was formed in 1994.”

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