Rob Arner Edinburg April 12, 2012

Below is a paper I recently drafted. If anyone has any additional info please get in contact

2012 Used Oil Recycling in America

By Robert Arner, President,
Recovery Enterprises,


Recently Valvoline ads on the Car Talk radio show and at the Daytona 500 promoting their use of 50% recycled oil inspired me to update my past used oil updates.

Currently, the United States consumes 19.6 million barrels of oil per day. Americans use over 7 billion barrels of oil products annually. The USA, which constitutes 4% of the worlds population, uses over 20 % of the worlds oil and produces 22% of climate-altering CO2.

We inject one trillion tons of oilfield waste into deep wells in addition to the 3 billion tons of oil and gas wastes we generate yearly through oil and gas exploration and production in the USA. The last publicly-generated report to Congress on this subject was made by the Environmental Protection Agency back in 1986. At the back end, we waste 400 million gallons of used oil and discard hundreds of millions of oil filters yearly in the United States. The current sampling method to evaluate the toxicity of oil--Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP) -- was designed for municipal landfills not oil, so this testing procedure is outdated. I ask you to simply reflect on the fact that one gallon of used oil improperly disposed of can contaminate one million gallons of fresh water or ruin the water supply for 50 people for a year.

The used oil recycling market provides a case study into the complexity of defining and regulating one area of recycling. Before we can understand the secondary oil market represented by recycled oil, we must understand the primary one. Each year in the United States, over 300 billion gallons of crude virgin oil are processed into various petroleum products such as gasoline, kerosene, plastics, etc. Of this amount, only 1/2 of one percent becomes used oil. Used oil disposal for the American do-it-yourself oil changer (DIYer) can become a serious problem or a valuable resource depending how it is managed.

One example can be found where I live. In the last four years, Virginia motorists disposed of 11.2 million gallons of oil, equivalent to the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill. The improper disposal of used oil, oil filters and antifreeze by those who perform their own automobile maintenance is a ubiquitous environmental concern. Three to 4.5 million gallons of used oil, 4.7 to 5.9 million oil filters, and approximately one million gallons of antifreeze were "lost" in Virginias environment. Only 15-30% of these materials are estimated as recovered. Even the disposal of discarded oil filters and plastic containers reveals a residual amount of oil whose sheer volume is alarming.

Rob Arner
United States