Used Oil FIlter Recycling Gushes In Delaware

Used Oil Filter Recycling Gushes in Delaware

In 1990, when the Delaware Solid Waste Authority (DSWA), Dover, Del., began “Recycle Delaware,” its statewide recycling program, the authority had no idea it would become a leader in oil filter recycling. But through ingenuity and a partnership between public and private sectors, 2.7 million filters have been recycled during the past five years.

DSWA's program originally was launched at 19 sites as a voluntary drop-off recycling program. Recycling centers were strategically located at shopping centers and businesses, where materials easily could be dropped off. Recyclable materials included newspaper, magazines and phone books; plastic narrow-neck bottles; aluminum, steel and empty aerosol cans; brown, green and clear glass; textiles; used motor oil; corrugated cardboard; and household batteries. However, residents who changed their own engine oil lacked convenient disposal options, and many residents poured used oil down sinks or in their backyards.

In 1996, Delaware residents purchased more than 1.1 million oil filters, based on filter sales, vehicle registration and population, according to Brent Hazelett of the Filters Manufacturers Council, Research Triangle Park, N.C. Without a filter-recycling program, most of the used oil filters went to landfills.

Recognizing that petroleum hydrocarbons in oil can cause problems when disposed of in landfills and that residents were dropping off used oil filters at the recycling centers even though DSWA centers did not collect the filters, DSWA CEO N.C. Vasuki began to consider ways to transform the filters into marketable steel.

“Removing as much oil as possible from solid waste will make our landfills environmentally less risky in the long-run,” he says.

DSWA solved the problem by placing oil filter collection containers at its recycling centers. Although the centers collected numerous filters each month, DSWA also asked fleet services, service stations, automobile dealerships and quick-lube businesses to participate in a free, statewide, used oil and oil filter collection program.

As interest grew, so did the number of participants. In the program's first year, the DSWA collected more than 236,000 filters. Each year, the program expanded, with DSWA collecting more than 394,000 oil filters in 1997; 403,000 in 1998; and 652,000 in 1999.

Today, DSWA has 143 “Recycle Delaware” sites, and filters are collected from a total of 425 locations statewide. In 2000, 85 percent of oil filters sold in Delaware were collected, meaning the DSWA recovered almost 1.1 million filters and 50,000 gallons of residual oil.

Once filters are collected, DSWA transports them to the Delaware Recycling Center (DRC), New Castle, Del., where a mechanical press squeezes out 99 percent of the residual oil and molds up to 10 filters into a 10-pound, 3.5-inch by 4-inch by 5-inch steel briquette.

“DSWA has 143 ‘Recycle Delaware’ sites, and [oil] filters are collected from a total of 425 locations statewide. In 2000, 85 percent of oil filters sold in Delaware were collected, meaning the DSWA recovered almost 1.1 million filters and 50,000 gallons of residual oil.”

CitiSteel USA Inc., Claymont, Del., purchases the filter briquettes, mixing them with other steel to make steel plates used in shipbuilding, and in constructing bridges and heavy equipment.

Motiva Enterprises, Delaware City, Del., collects the used oil from DSWA's centers and processes it for recycling.

“This is an excellent example of how public and private partnerships can create innovative solutions,” said Spiros Mantzavinos, manager of external affairs for Motiva Enterprises.

Motiva uses revenue from oil sales to support Delaware fire and rescue crews through purchasing high-cost equipment for paramedics. Since 1996, Motiva has donated eight heart defibrillators to local volunteer fire departments at a cost of $27,345. The idea came from several Motiva employees who also serve as volunteer firefighters in nearby towns.

This program continues to win national awards. Recently, the program received the Washington, D.C.-based Steel Manufacturers Association's 21st Annual Distinguished Recyclers Award for Government Activities. In 1998, the program also received a Gold Award for Special Waste Excellence from the Solid Waste Association of North America, Silver Spring, Md.

For more information, call the DSWA Citizens' Response Line toll-free at (800) 404-7080.