Background of the Used Oil Program

Why have a used oil program?

Used oil is a valuable resource

  • Used oil can be re-refined as a lubricating oil, used as a clean fuel and reprocessed to create many petroleum-based products. Recycling it saves this non-renewable resource for future use.
  • One gallon of used oil can be re-refined into 2.5 quarts of lubricating oil. It takes 42 gallons of crude oil to produce this same amount of lubricating oil.

Improperly disposed of, it’s harmful

  • America’s worst oil spill was not in Alaska. It is spread all over the U.S. The EPA estimates that 200 million gallons of used oil are dumped on the ground, tossed in the trash (ending up in landfills), and poured down storm sewers and drains every year.
  • Just one gallon of used oil, the amount from a single small auto engine, has the potential to contaminate up to one million gallons of fresh water – a year’s supply for 50 people.
  • A single gallon of used oil will create an eight-acre oil slick.
  • Used oil can be more of a problem than new oil because of the contaminants that used oil contains. These contaminants have been linked to bronchitis; adverse impacts on human fetal development; lethal toxicity to plants and animals; and human cancers of the skin, lung , liver, bladder, kidney, and gastrointestinal tract.
  • Used oil that is dumped on the ground or is put in storm drains can contaminate ground water which can be very difficult to cleanup.
  • Used oil in surface water has the potential to harm wildlife by depleting the oxygen supply for fish and other aquatic life, and by hindering the ability of birds to fly.
  • When plants are grown in soil or fed by water contaminated by used oil, they absorb (bioaccumulate) high concentrations of heavy metals. One of the indirect risks of such environmental dangers is the poisoning of the food chain, which ultimately affects human health.

Program background

Because used oil recycling makes a contribution to present energy demands and offers a safe outlet for a material often dumped haphazardly into the environment, The U.S. Congress, the EPA, the Utah Legislature, and the Department of Environmental Quality have given special attention to its regulation.

The 1993 Legislature made significant changes to Utah’s used oil program when it enacted Senate Bill 12, the Used Oil Management Act (34 KB). Responsibility for the used oil program in Utah was transferred from the Department of Natural Resources to the Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control. New standards for collecting, processing, recycling, and reusing used oil were established by the Legislature, which also provided financial incentives to encourage businesses to become used oil collection centers and therefore making collection centers more readily available. The statute prohibits the disposal of used oil in landfills and other areas, such as road oiling and dust suppression, which could result in contamination of groundwater and drinking water supplies, as well as cause air pollution problems with emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The Act also established severe penalties for violations.

The Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control was given the responsibility of formulating rules to administer the new Act. The Division developed standards for registration of various used oil facilities, established permit and record keeping requirements, set permit fees, determined amounts of liability insurance needed by facilities, and implemented a broad- based educational program to promote used oil recycling. On February 19, 1994, the Solid and Hazardous Waste Control Board approved the final Standards for the Management of Used Oil. These new rules based on Federal rules, are modified to reflect Utah’s special concerns.

The used oil program hopes to eliminate, or reduce, the obstacles to proper collection and disposal of do-it-yourselfer (DIYer) used oil, (i.e., used oil generated through household activities, including maintenance of personal vehicles) by making used oil collection centers more convenient and providing the public with educational programs and readily available information. Even though a large part of the program’s efforts are focused on the proper disposal of DIYer generated oil, the used oil regulations contained in Standards for the Management of Used Oil and Used Oil Financial Assurance Forms cover all used oil handlers including generators, transporters, processors/re-refiners, burners and marketers.

Funding and priorities

Funding of the Used Oil Program is provided from collection of a fee of four-cents on all oil sold at the retail level. The Legislature established priorities for the expenditure of the appropriations received by the Division for the management of used oil in the the following order:

  • Division and Board costs of implementation;
  • Recycling incentive payments;
  • Public education programs;
  • Awarding of grants, as funds are available, with an emphasis on providing used oil collection facilities and programs in rural areas; and
  • Provide funding to local health departments for enforcement of the management of DIYer used oil.

Used oil grants

An important aspect of the Used Oil Management Act provides for grants, as funds are available to promote used oil recycling. Grants are available for the establishment of used oil collection centers, for implementation of new used oil programs, or for enhancement of existing used oil programs, with an emphasis on rural areas. To apply, a Used Oil Recycling Block Grant Package, published by the Division, should be completed and submitted to the Executive Secretary for consideration.


Ted Sonnenburg (
(385) 499-0980

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