Draining Bottles Offers Big Savings


Properly draining motor oil bottles can save 9.8 million gallons of oil a year in the United States alone, keeping the oil out of landfills and groundwater, one quick lube owner contends. While quick lubes are a small part of the problem – most of their oil is purchased in bulk – hes urging the oil change industry to take the lead in promoting bottled oil draining.

R. Scotti Lee, owner of Oil Change Express in New Castle, Del., has launched a one-man campaign to reduce the amount of motor oil going into landfills.

In my research, I found that 1.4 billion quart oil bottles are manufactured in the U.S. each year, Lee said. To determine how much oil was left in the bottle after installing the oil, I drained the bottle for four hours and ended up with .89 ounces or .007 gallons. That led Lee to conclude that as much as 9.8 million gallons of oil could be going into landfills in the empty bottles that many recyclers reject because of that oil residue.

The majority of the lube centers simply put the bottles into the trash undrained, said Lee.

Industry estimates for the proportion of bottled oil vs. bulk oil installed by quick lubes run as high as 15 percent, Lee asserted. That means the U.S. quick lube industry could be emptying as many as 89 million quart bottles of motor oil annually, he said.

Recyclers will be much more likely to accept oil bottles if they have been drained, Lee said, and the plastic used to make quart oil bottles is HDPE, a very recyclable plastic.

A side bonus, Lee added, is that you can make money from the oil collected from your quart bottles. Lee tells installers to reclaim the oil and use it for top-offs or engine flushes, or let employees use it in their vehicles, saving a typical quick lube up to $2,500 per year. Or they can add the drained oil to waste oil receptacles, and if you get paid for your waste oil, you can put an extra $100 in your pocket each year.

Draining quart bottles is simple, Lee said. There are commercial products that sell for less than $15. Or simply cut holes in the lid of a 15 gallon steel container and put the bottles upside down to let them drain. Just be sure to segregate products if the oil will be used in top-offs or transmission flushes, he cautioned.

Speaking as a quick lube owner, Lee told Lube Report, were a small part of the problem. We want the retailers [who sell bottled motor oil] to be proactive, too. Lee estimated that retailers sell over 1.3 billion quart bottles of motor oil in the U.S., and he hopes to see them involved in recycling programs for all those bottles.

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