RECYCLING: Study Finds Three Keys To Successful Used Oil Collection

Each year, state officials continue to develop efficient and cost-effective used oil recycling programs for do-it-yourselfers, ac- cording to a report released by the American Petroleum Institute (API), Washington, D.C. As a result, more used oil is being collected from throughout the United States.

Several factors are integral to a used oil collection program's success: public education, sufficient funding (particularly for grants to establish collection locations) and convenient collection points.

At least 32 states reported a total of 2,927 government-operated oil collection locations, according to the report. However, the number of private used oil collection points is much higher, with API members operating more than 10,000 collection points throughout this country.

Funding typically comes from the state general funds and a motor oil fee. Specific state budgets for used oil collection range from $5,000 in Iowa to $22 million in California. In addition, 13 states have grants, and two more states are currently developing such programs. Grant recipients include local governments, non-profit organizations and private businesses. Fourteen other states reported general recycling grants that may be used for oil.

A lack of public education is a major barrier in used oil collection participation, according to 82 percent of the respondents. Even states already providing public ed-ucation believe this is a key issue. Inconveniently located recycling centers were listed as a major ob-stacle by 91 percent of the respondents, while 47 percent blamed inadequate funding (see chart). Not surprisingly, no state with a fee on motor oil listed inadequate funding as a barrier to used oil collection.

Approximately 240 million gallons of used oil - most of which is re-processed into fuel - was available for collection from individuals in the United States in 1995.

In addition, using recycled oil in space heaters and re-refining are common management practices. Twenty-four states have enacted a government purchasing preference for re-refined or re-processed used oil.

According to the report, some 30 states have adopted federal used oil management standards and eight others plan to do the same; 12 states have revised the standards. Meanwhile, five states still list used oil as a hazardous waste.

The report concluded that adequately-funded grant programs in-crease both the total number of government-operated collection points and the quantity of oil collected. Toll-free hotlines providing in-formation about collection points also positively in-creases collection rates.

The 25 states with these hotlines collect twice as much used oil on average as states that do not employ such efforts. Public education also can overcome other ob-stacles to collection. For example, states can inform service outlets that federal and some state regulations exempt all collection points from certain liability by accepting oil from the public.

To order a copy of the National Used Oil Collection Study, contact: American Petroleum Institute, Publication Dept., 1220 L St. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20005. (202) 682-8375. Fax: (202) 962-4776. For more information, contact Brad Jones. (202) 682-8343. E-mail: