Currently, there is substantial attention given to global warming relating to industrial and automobile emissions into the atmosphere. As a result, however, public and media attention has shifted away from harmful discharges into the ground.
In that area, the automobile industry has listened to environmentalists, consumers and their own collective concerns and made great strides in creating more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly products. One effort that has not received a great deal of recognition is the fact that many dealerships, automotive repair shops, garages and others are taking the lead in the area of recycling.
It would be fair to say that a dealership that services about 23,400 vehicles a year – that’s 450 each week – disposes of 52,000 gallons of motor oil and 2,500 gallons of antifreeze each year. That’s the equivalent of 872,000 8-ounce bottles of your favorite soft drink from just one automobile dealership in one town in Massachusetts. Imagine the impact of millions of gallons of these products used on a national basis. Fortunately, most automotive-related businesses are quietly doing the right thing.
Motor oil and antifreeze that are not recycled may go to the local landfill, which is better than illegal dumping but not the best way to serve our environment.
To respond to the needs of recycling, a small industry is developing to make good use of automotive waste. Recycling services are available from a few sources, most notably New England Environmental Services in Cumberland, which is able to service the automotive industry throughout New England and the East Coast. We take comfort and pride in knowing that used motor oil, antifreeze and oil filters are transformed into new products rather than collected at a municipal landfill.
In fact, the used oil collected can be re-refined into new oil, processed into fuel oils and used as raw materials for the petroleum industry. This means that the waste from your oil change has a second life.
One gallon of used motor oil provides the same 2.5 quarts of lubricating oil as 42 gallons of crude oil. It can achieve the same level of performance as virgin oil, so it might become the gas in your tank or the fuel to generate power plants, incinerators and turbines, or used to create plastic.
Antifreeze can also be processed into new antifreeze. Oil filters can be drained, the waste oil blended and burned for power, and the filter itself melted down to become carbon steel. In fact, we actually heat our service shop with used oil burned in a waste oil heater.
It would be a boon to the environment and reduce the cost of manufacturing after-market products if not only all automotive businesses, but individuals as well, were responsible for the safe disposal of automotive oil and other products through recycling. Unfortunately, there are still those who will dispose of the waste products illegally, causing irreparable harm to sewers, back yards or storm drains and even drinking water.
Renowned author Stephen Covey is credited with saying, “While we are free to choose our actions, we are not free to choose the consequences of our actions.”
Although this thought pertains to just about everything we do, it is especially true in the environmental arena. The automotive industry is accepting the mantle of responsibility for disposal of its waste products; it would be a good thing for others to join with us in this effort.
R.J. Graf is the parts department manager of Lexus of Norwood.