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Environmental Tips for Used Oil Disposal

The threat

Waste oil dumped illegally is a serious problem in Miami-Dade County because of its threat to our drinking water supply. The County works to protect our drinking water from all sources of contamination. In 2002 alone, Permitting, Environment and Regulatory Affairs responded to over 300 incidents of illegal disposal of motor oil, which varied from abandoned buckets and drums full of oil to contamination of storm drains to oil-soaked soils. This costs nearly $45,000 a year to remedy!

These incidents only account for emergency responses of contaminants on public property (the side of the road, parks, etc.) In addition, dozens of incidents were reported on private property (cleared lots, farm fields, private roads, etc.) Many of those property owners are responsible for cleanup even though they might be innocent victims of the crime.

According to the American Petroleum Institute, 60% of all do-it-yourself oil changers improperly dispose of used motor oil. This results in millions of gallons of used motor oil that can potentially pollute our drinking water nationwide each year. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency believes that the largest single source of oil pollution tainting our nation's waters come from do-it-yourselfers.

Since Miami-Dade's only source of drinking water is found just a few feet below the surface, discarded oil can easily contaminate our water supply. It only takes one gallon of used oil to contaminate over 1 million gallons of water. Serious harm can be done if oil-contaminated water finds its way to our drinking water treatment plants.

The solution

Used motor oil can either be reprocessed and used again as motor oil or more commonly, can be fuel-blended and burned for energy. Two gallons of recycled motor oil can generate enough electricity to run the average household for about a day, cook 48 meals in the microwave oven, or vacuum your house for 15 months!

The solution is easy – don’t discard used motor oil – recycle it! And it's easy to do! There are over 100 facilities in Miami-Dade County that accept and recycle used motor oil.

Pollution prevention tips

  • Use a funnel to ensure the motor oil does not spill on the ground.
  • Place drain pan under car beneath oil filter to further avoid spillage.
  • Don't let oil drip onto the grass or dirt; this eventually makes it into our drinking water.
  • Make sure the filter seal is tightly secured.  Be sure it is leak-free.
  • Use a durable, tightly closed container that is designed to hold petroleum products. This will prevent spills during transportation and storage.
  • Do not mix used oil with any other substances like solvents or other automotive fluids!
  • Don't forget about the oil filter! It's environmentally unsafe to toss old, oil-saturated filters in the garbage. 


  • Throw motor oil on the ground
  • Dispose motor oil in the trash
  • Spill or spread motor oil on roads
  • Pour motor oil into sewer or storm drains

Where to take your used oil

Miami-Dade's Department of Public Works and Waste Management offers to take up to five gallons of used oil from "do-it-yourselfers" at some of their Neighborhood Trash and Recycling Centers. However, it is only open to service area waste fee customers (those residents living in unincorporated Miami-Dade County and the cities of Aventura, Cutler Bay, Doral, Miami Gardens, Miami Lakes, Palmetto Bay, Pinecrest, Sunny Isles Beach and Sweetwater.).

Residents living outside these areas who wish to dispose used oil should check with their local municipality or mechanic shop for other motor oil recycling options.

If you find used oil or other chemicals illegally dumped anywhere in Miami-Dade County, call the 24-hour hotline at 305-372-6955. For more information about other recycling opportunities in your community, call 3-1-1.

See also:

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Back to Top Page Last Edited: Tue Nov 17, 2015 4:51:57 PM

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