SARAH ARCHER: Take Proper Care of Used Motor Oil

Recycling is good for the environment; however recycling materials improperly can have the reverse effect.

This is especially true with used motor oil. This week used motor oil, oil soaked rags and oil filters were dropped into the recycling container in Onekama Township. Although the signage indicates no motor oil, someone chose to dispose of these items improperly which means the recyclables will end up in the landfill and the bin will have to be removed and cleaned, at a cost to the program.

Thankfully, the site monitor noticed these materials, removed some of them and closed up the bins to keep any further contamination of good recyclables from occurring.

While an avid recycler, the contamination of the bottles, cans and jars doesn’t disturb me as much as the thought of the damage the oil can do to the surrounding environment if it were to spill out onto the ground. With the abundance of lakes and waterways in Manistee County, proper disposal of automotive fluids is essential to prevent damage that can persist for years. The pollution caused by used motor oil is toxic to plants and animals living in the water, and can pollute soil and our drinking water given that used motor oil contains cancer causing toxic substances along with tiny particles of lead, zinc and arsenic that make their way into the oil as a result of typical engine wear and tear.

The US Environmental Protection Agency reports that one gallon of used motor oil can contaminate 1 million gallons of fresh water (that’s enough water to fill over 20,000 average sized bath tubs).

In Michigan our laws state that liquid motor oil cannot be dumped onto the ground, down drains or sewers or into surface or groundwater, disposed of in landfills, burned in municipal solid waste incinerators or other incinerators without energy recovery, or used as dust control or weed control. Motor oil is hazardous when disposed of improperly but on the upside is highly recyclable.

Because of its toxic nature and liquid state, used motor oil is collected separately from typical household recyclables. Most oil change, auto repair and auto supply businesses will accept used motor oil for recycling, at no cost. I contacted Auto Zone, Havoline Express Lube, and Midas Auto Service in Manistee and they all accept used motor oil. Check with your local auto service center to learn if they will accept used motor oil for recycling.

Residents can also take automotive fluids and other hazardous products to the Annual Manistee Conservation District Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Collection Day on Saturday, August 16 from 9 a.m. to  2 p.m. The event is located at the Manistee County Road Commission. Contact the Manistee Conservation District for more details at (231) 889-4761 or visit their website

Please, keep Manistee County clean and healthy by properly disposing of your waste. Read and follow the guidelines of your local recycling program. If you’re not sure of what to do with something, give my office a call or send me an email.

Sarah Archer is owner of Iris Waste Diversion Specialists and serves as the Manistee County Recycling Coordinator.She can be reached via the toll-free recycling hotline (855) 246-9376) or email