Used oil is the single biggest source of water pollution in the United States. One gallon of used oil can ruin 1 million gallons of water and create an eight-acre slick on surface water. And according to the EPA, 40 percent of that oil pollution in the U.S. comes from the improper disposal of used motor oil by individuals. Most of the disposed oil drains right into the sewer system. It’s a big problem.
A lot of people think auto salvage yards are a major part of that big problem. When most people think of junkyards, they think of rotting car hulks sitting for ages, leaking oil, and a complete disregard for the environment. The truth is that salvage yards are constantly surveyed by the EPA and can be shut down on a moments notice if they’re considered major polluters, but more importantly, as a salvage yard it’s actually very profitable to reclaim as much oil as you can from a vehicle. They have a use for that oil:
All auto salvage yards of any substantial size have at least one waste oil burner. Burners are the most common, efficient, and actually one of the cleanest ways that a individual or small operation can get rid of waste oil. They burn the oil at such a high temperature that it breaks down many of the harmful chemicals in the oil. It also cuts back on the salvage yard’s use of electricity or natural gas. One gallon of used oil contains about 140,000 BTUs of energy—about the same heating value as new oil.
In the winter, the office and garage of a well-run auto salvage yard doesn’t have to pay for heat, it all comes from the reclaimed oil in the waste-oil burners.