The ROSE Foundation is calling on South African businesses to dispose of used oil responsibly as it fears that water contamination is threatening the country’s already dwindling water resources.
While old infrastructure and a backlog in services has exacerbated the issue, with valuable water sources being contaminated with sewage and other pollution, the foundation notes that used lubricant oil is also a major contributor to contamination.
Used oil, which is a common by-product of mechanised processes in all industry sectors, contain harmful compounds and carcinogens that can easily contaminate the environment, especially if thrown down drains, into landfills or onto the ground where it leaches into the water table.
A lack of education a challenge
Because of its harmful properties, used oil is classified as a hazardous waste and is strictly governed by environmental laws – with its storage and disposal needing to meet the requirements of the Waste Act.
Bubele Nyiba, the CEO of ROSE (Recycling Oil Saves the Environment) explains that due to a lack of education many people who generate used oil may dispose of it improperly and illegally – pouring it down a drain, throwing it out onto the ground or even re-using it as a dust suppressant, burner fuel, or wood preservative.
“It is estimated that South Africa generates an average of 120 million litres of used lubricant oil in a year. This is a large amount of used oil that, if not collected and recycled responsibly, could make its way into our environment.”
The ROSE Foundation offer some practical tips on storing used oil:
- Drain oil into a clean container with a tight fitting lid. Empty oil containers and drums make effective makeshift storage vessels for used oil, however, DO NOT use a container that previously held chemicals, such as cleaners, solvents, fuels, paint or bleach.
- Always clearly label the container “Used Motor Oil.”
- Keep these containers in a place that can be accessed by a NORA-SA used oil collector and keep the surrounding area clear and clean. Ideally store them under cover and away from heat or sources of ignition.
- Keep oil change pans tightly sealed and covered to protect them from rain water. Oil that is contaminated with water is far more difficult to recycle.
- Ensure that you do not mix used oil with other fluids such as antifreeze, transmission fluid, petrol, diesel etc. Mixing them may make them non-recyclable as well as very hazardous and flammable.
- Build a bund wall around bulk used oil storage tanks so that in the event of a spill or leak, the used oil will be contained. In the event of an oil spill, contact your used oil collector.
Responsible waste management a necessary thing to do
Once your container is full you can drop it off at your nearest approved municipal garden refuse site – a list of which is available from the ROSE Foundation. Otherwise, most reputable service centres have used oil storage facilities and will take your oil, as they are paid according to volume by the collectors who take it away for processing.
Nyiba says that the safe disposal of hazardous waste has become a critical issue in South Africa in order to protect our environment. “The legislation in place in South Africa means that responsible waste management is no longer a nice thing to do but a necessary thing to do.”