Used oil is a valuable resource which, if disposed of correctly, can be recycled and used again
Members of South Africa’s independent motor repair industry are responding positively to efforts to manage used oil wisely, says Dewald Ranft, chairman of the Motor Workshop Industry Association (MIWA). “Workshops are starting to understand the effects that the disposal of used oil in an irresponsible way have on our environment. They are implementing changes,” he says.
Used oil is classified as a hazardous substance because of harmful chemicals and metals that contaminate it through use. Releasing used oil into the environment threatens ground and surface water, endangering potable supply as well as fauna and flora.
South Africa’s Rose Foundation, a national non-profit organisation established to promote and encourage environmentally responsible management of used oils and related waste, reports that one litre of used oil can contaminate a million litres of water. If unprocessed used oil is burnt in furnaces, harmful toxic compounds are emitted into the atmosphere. For these reasons, it is illegal to dump used oil or to burn it without processing it first.
The law requires responsible storage, collection and recycling of used oil within the strict compliance requirements of the Waste Act. “We have been promoting the responsible and legal way to dispose of used oil with our members through the introduction of affordable oil/water separators – called grease traps – and the move has been well received,” says Ranft.
He adds that, while traps used in industrial drains are perceived as expensive, a company in Port Elizabeth has developed an affordable system that’s been deemed suitable for small workshops. “Municipal officials in Port Elizabeth, Uitenhage and George have approved the traps for use,” says Ranft.
He adds that, besides complying with the legal aspect, it is important that all used oil from the workshop industry is collected and responsibly recycled.
“At this point we are looking into ways of assisting members in other regions regarding grease trap systems. As a part of our mandate, we believe it is important that our members have as little negative impact on the environment as possible. MIWA will continuously look for ways to ensure this happens,” he says.
It’s not only in the workshop environment that positive support for proper used oil management has been forthcoming. Anton Niemann, GM of Shell Lubricants, says there is a need to recover and recycle as much waste oil as possible.
“Many of us don’t realise that used oil is a valuable resource,” he says. “If it’s disposed of at a collection facility which is accredited by the Rose Foundation, it can be recovered and re-used without posing a threat to humans or the environment. Used motor oil can undergo various treatments and then be used as an industrial burner fuel, or re-refined back into new lubricating or hydraulic oil.”
Niemann says Shell Lubricants is proud to be associated with the Rose Foundation’s initiatives. As one of the founding members of the organisation, he says the company is committed to becoming an even stronger sustainably champion in South Africa. “We aim to ensure that our clients remain educated on the safe and proper manner in which to dispose of used oils and lubricants,” he says.