N.C. Bans Filter Disposal


As of Oct. 1 this year, used oil filters in North Carolina can no longer go in the trash. The law applies to oil filters changed by commercial oil change shops and garages, as well as by individuals.

The North Carolina General Assembly enacted House Bill 1465 in 2005, adding oil filters to the list of items banned from landfill disposal. The state said setting the October 2009 deadline aimed to allow private garages, oil change companies and fleet managers time to assess their service needs and make arrangements with filter recycling service companies.

The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources send out a reminder June 22 to groups and associations with members in North Carolina. Tom Rhodes, a waste reduction specialist with the department, said the bill reinforces a disposal ban on used motor oil enacted through legislation in 1989. Other states that ban disposal of used oil filters in landfills include California and Florida.

Theres so much residual oil still in a changed filter, that it could put a significant amount of motor oil back in landfills, Rhodes explained to Lube Report. The legislature felt it was best to keep it out.

Landfill inspectors will handle enforcement. They go to each of the landfills in North Carolina to make sure theyre in compliance, he said. They check for things like tires, paint, motor oil, any liquids, things that are legislated out of the landfill, including the motor oil filters. If say, for instance, the landfill inspector should come on site to the landfill, looking around at whats being disposed of. If they happen to see any motor oil filters, they could write the landfill a citation.

Rhodes said the majority of the companies in North Carolina handling used oil filter collection have already been in the oil collection business. They collect the oil filters from businesses that generate used oil filters, including garages, service stations and quick lubes. The collecting companies either process the used filters themselves, or take them to a different company that has the capacity to manage the filters.

What happens to the filters is that ultimately they are crushed, and the residual oil comes out, is reclaimed and is either used as a fuel for oil burning furnaces, or its reprocessed back into a reprocessed oil, Rhodes explained. In North Caroline, use of the residual oil as a fuel is more common, he added.

Rhodes noted that the metal and paper in used oil filters are shredded, and both materials eventually prove useful. The burning waste product is used to generate electricity, Rhodes said. The metal is taken to a metal recycler where it is melted down and made into things like construction rebar and that type of product. Rebar is a steel bar or rod used to reinforce concrete.

Durham-based Clean Green is a recycling business that processes used motor oil filters and antifreeze. General Manager Andrew Wilkinson said it does a lot of business with industrial accounts, quick lubes, automotive dealerships and mom-and-pop shops.

The company has seen a gradual increase in new business over the last couple of months, he stated, as people have become more educated about the mandate going into effect in October. As we get to August and September, we expect therell be a huge increase in that, Wilkinson told Lube Report.

He noted that some businesses had started recycling used oil filters due to liability concerns. We have a lot of dealerships where an insurance company has pretty much forced them to do it even though there wasnt a mandate, Wilkinson said. Weve also had a lot of people that say when someone makes me do it, Ill do it. Theres a wide variety of different people in how they feel about it. I do feel there needs to be more of an education by North Carolina to help with that process so everybody knows about it, not just particular people.

Wilkinson said that while some collection companies place hoppers outside a garage, Clean Green has found it more effective to place collection drums inside facilities. One reason is for containment purposes – in case something goes wrong, its contained inside instead of outside, he explained. The likelihood of technicians taking time when theyre busy to walk outside, go around a building and throw filters outside is low. Theyre less likely to do that than pitch them in the trash can, so its easier for them to have it right there by the bay, pop the top off our drum and throw them right in. When its full, they either call us or we have them on our routing system. We charge a fee to dispose of filters at that time, leave them a new drum, and go from there.

Clean Green reprocesses the oil filters rather than sending them out of state for processing. We have a machine at our facility that crushes the filters into cubes, he explained. The oil is taken and used for burning, for heat, and for making asphalt. Our cubes are taken and put into a hopper. Another company picks up the metal, which is melted down for use in things such as rebar and manhole covers.

National Oil & Lube News editor Garrett McKinnon said NOLNs 2008 Fast Lube Operators Survey found that 44 percent of lube operations use a scrap metal hauler to recycle used oil filters. By way of comparison, only 23 percent did so in 2004, McKinnon told Lube Report. As more states have clamped down on used oil filter disposal in landfills, more operators have turned to metal recyclers to dispose of those filters. By and large, operators are not being paid for those used oil filters – only 3 percent were paid for used filters in our 2008 survey.

According to the Filters Manufacturers Council in Research Triangle Park, N.C., used oil filter recycling has climbed over 50 percent nationally from near zero 10 years ago. If your business changes oil commercially, it is a good idea to voluntarily collect used oil filters from do-it-yourselfers (DIYers), the council said on its web site. Businesses currently collecting used oil filters include auto parts stores, quick lubes, and other service outlets. Accepting used oil filters from DIYers can be used as a tool to market ones business, the council noted.

For more information on North Carolinas ban on used oil filters from landfills, visit http://www.p2pays.org/bannedmaterials/oilfilters. The Filter Council provides details on recycling oil filters at a shop: http://www.filtercouncil.org/envinfo/educational/recshop.html

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