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  Guest Editorial

Ways to Conserve in Your Shop

Posted 6/11/2009
By Brian England

Recycling motor oil one bottle at a time adds up to protection of the environment as well as your shop's bottom line!

As auto repair facilities, we use our fair share of environmentally unfriendly materials - not the least of which is oil. Have you noticed that every time you use a bottle of oil there is always some left in the container? In fact, it can be as much as 4 percent to 5 percent of the original amount.

This is a major problem. A container with even a small amount of oil cannot be recycled. In the United States alone, we use more than 3.43 billion quarts of oil each year. This means that the United States is throwing into the trash the equivalent of 3.5 Exxon Valdez oil spills of perfectly good, clean, usable motor oil every year.

Where does your trash go? Ours goes into our local landfill, which means that the oil and plastic bottles are going there too - if the bottles are not drained completely.

As the owner of an environmentally aware auto service facility, I found this very disturbing and wanted to implement an efficient way to completely drain all of the oil from the bottle so the plastic bottles and oil would not go to the landfill.

Now the question was, "How were we going to drain the bottles, without creating a lot of extra work and without taking up valuable space?"

After some failed attempts at trying to drain the motor oil, I started to get more creative. I went to the local hardware store and bought some plastic storage boxes. I drilled the lids of 10 of these boxes to accommodate two different size bottlenecks. The plastic boxes fit perfectly on our parts shelves. Each technician was then asked to collect all of his "empty" oil bottles in a plastic bag after securely replacing the cap. The bags of oil bottles are then taken to our parts department where one of our drivers - who enthusiastically embraced the system - would set the bottles upside down in the holes of the lids of the containers. Soon we were collecting approximately one quart of oil for every 24 bottles drained. We leave the bottles to drain for 72 hours, which ensures all of the remaining oil is out and now the plastic container can be recycled!

So, not only are we recycling the plastic bottles, but we are reclaiming good oil that can be used in other vehicles!

In 10 months, we have recycled 2,198 bottles, amounting to 309 pounds of plastic and have reclaimed 26 gallons (104 quarts) of good oil.

If all of the automotive service facilities in the United States did the same, think what a positive impact we would be making!

Editor's Note: The facts and figures used in this article on the percentage of oil left in containers, etc. were obtained from the Web site,

Brian England Brian England, AAM, is president of British American Auto Care Inc., an ASA member shop in Columbia, Md. E-mail him at For his commitment to preserving the environment, England's shop was recognized by the Howard County, Md., local government last year with a "Howard Green Salute," only the second company to be awarded this honor. The shop also has a Web site dedicated to the environment and car care at


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