New collection program pays cash for used auto oil

State sponsorship and participation by local businesses aim to stop oil pollution

by Chris Klein
he City of San Diego, in cooperation with local businesses, has launched a new campaign to make it easier - and profitable - for residents to recycle their used motor oil and other automotive wastes.
The problem is more dramatic than you might think. The Department of Environmental Services, sponsors of this latest effort, estimate that one out of four households in San Diego change their own oil; of those, one in five dump the oil illegally. If you work out the numbers, this amounts to an estimated 120,000 gallons of pollution.
The new Used Oil Collection Program makes it easier than ever for home auto mechanics to do the right thing - and get paid for it. Residents will receive four cents per quart for motor oil turned in at any of 42 State-certified collection centers.
The city will also sponsor eight one-day special collection events. In addition to oil, residents can bring oil filters, auto batteries and antifreeze to these events. While no cash will be paid for oil at these events, participants will receive a coupon book good for discounts at fast-food restaurants, auto service companies, fitness centers and local attractions.
A key element of the campaign is the participation of local businesses that will serve as collection points for used oil and other automotive products. The program is funded by a $700,000 grant from the State of California Integrated Waste Management Board.

Down to the sea

Where does the illegally dumped oil go? It just doesn't harmlessly disappear (after all, the oil was underground for hundreds of millions of years before we took it out). Some is dumped on the soil, where it can pollute groundwater or be carried off by rain and surface water flow. Much is dumped directly into storm drains. Eventually, most of it finds its way to the ocean.
The kickoff for the program was held at the Stephen Birch Aquarium-Museum in La Jolla, which provided a sober reminder of how serious this toxic problem can be. As scuba divers inside the 55,000-gallon kelp forest tank unveiled the new Used Oil Collection Program logo, aquarium curator Bob Burhams reminded us that "Less than one cup of motor oil could contaminate this entire tank. Toxins and other bacteria washed down storm drains pose a significant hazard to birds, mammals, fish and other marine life."
Encouraging residents to "Get in Gear - Recycle Auto Waste," the green and orange logo will be painted on both sides of the city's 130 refuse packers and recycling trucks. For additional information on automotive product collection centers and upcoming recycling events, residents can call the program's hotline at 235-2105.