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[greenyes] Re: oil/antifreeze containers
The question was raised about if motor oil containers can be recycled.
Many report that motor oil bottles are not easily recyclable, but some
report that their MFR has no problem with them.

Motor oil bottles are made with HDPE - an easy plastic to recycle.
However, no matter how long you drain a motor oil bottle, it will still
have a residue of motor oil in the bottle.  You would be amazed at how
much oil is still in the bottle after you have spent 5 minutes letting
it drain into your car engine.  Even if you let it drain 24 hours, it
will still have a thin coating of oil plus some drips adhering to the
bottle.  Normal water and detergent washing has no effect on this oil.
Thus, although the plastic is recyclable, the residue of oil commonly
present causes significant problems.  You cannot reasonably accept oil
bottles from the public and mix it in with your other HDPE.  To do so
will likely cause significant contamination problems for the end user.
Since many plastic bottles are shipped to Asian markets though, perhaps
we don't hear of those problems back here or perhaps they throw away the
bottles over there.

If you are collecting concentrated quantities of motor oil bottles
though, such as from service stations, then recycling the bottles may be
feasible.  This is because with a concentration of bottles, you can run
these bottles through some sort of solvent washing procedure.  Sharon
Gates mentioned the ITEC system of recycling motor oil bottles, which
uses liquid carbon dioxide under pressure as a solvent for removing the
oil.  Here is the ITEC web site that talks more about the process and
the recycling opportunities they offer.

A number of years ago one of the major gasoline companies offered a
program in Oregon of collecting motor oil bottles from the public.  It
was a good program, but the recycler who was doing the program with them
got overwhelmed with bottles, and used a process that was too
inefficient to be able to recycle the bottles profitably, so
unfortunately the program folded.

Thus, motor oil bottles are recyclable, but only if you have special
processing that completely cleans the bottles of residue oil.  Without
this cleaning process, the oil bottles just cause contamination, and
should not be mixed with other plastic bottles for recycling.

On the other hand, antifreeze bottles should not have this problem,
since antifreeze is water-soluble.  I do not know why a program could
not accept rinsed antifreeze bottles for recycling.

Peter Spendelow
Oregon Department of Environmental Quality

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