The Agencies are responsible for the protection of "controlled waters"
from pollution and for the prevention of pollution of the environment and
harm to human health by waste management activities under the
Environmental Protection Act 1990 (except in Northern Ireland, where
different legislation applies). Under the Duty of Care (Reference 1) those
responsible for waste must keep it safely. "Controlled waters" include all
watercourses, canals, lakes, lochs, coastal waters and water contained in
2. OIL IN THE ENVIRONMENT
Used engine oil from car
maintenance should be taken to an oil bank for recycling. These will be
found at most civic amenity sites and at some garages and certain major
car accessory retailers. Your local authority recycling officer should be
able to provide you with details of where these may be found.
Alternatively contact the Oil Bank Helpline on freephone 0800 663366
for information. It is important not to contaminate used oil with other
materials, such as white spirit, paint or solvents, as this makes
recycling extremely difficult.
Oil is one of the most commonly reported types of water pollution and
causes more than a quarter of all water pollution incidents. Careless
disposal of oil into drainage systems, onto land or to watercourses is an
offence and damages river life, including birds, fish and other wildlife.
Because of the way it spreads, even a small quantity can cause a lot of
harm - a gallon of oil can completely cover a one-acre lake. Clean-up
operations can be expensive, the costs of which may be recovered from the
offender. Used oil may have other hazardous properties; for example used
engine oil is classified as carcinogenic and should be handled and stored
with care to protect human health.
b. Vegetable Oil
Small amounts of vegetable cooking oil or animal fats can be used as
bird food by using it to soak or fry pieces of bread. Some council
operated recycling sites have facilities for the collection of vegetable
oil. Contact your local authority recycling officer for details.
4. DISPOSING OF COMMERCIAL AND INDUSTRIAL USED OIL
In most cases, used oil from commercial and industrial sources will be
classified as a special waste under the Special Waste Regulations 1996
(Reference 2). As such there are specific requirements which must be met
in its movement, treatment and disposal. These are normally dealt with by
the contractor collecting the material, who should be able to provide
advice if required.
a. Industrial Oil
Larger quantities of used oil, such as hydraulic fluid or lubricants
from lorries, buses or mechanical plant, should be stored securely for
collection by a registered waste carrier who may pay for the oil. Used oil
is a valuable material and should be treated as such. Emulsified cutting
oils are highly polluting in water and great care should be taken in their
disposal. There are specialist companies who will collect used cutting
oils for treatment and recovery of the oil.
b. Vegetable Oil
Cooking oils from major users, such as fish and chip shops, can be
collected by specialist contractors for reprocessing. They must not be
disposed of to the surface water drain and may not be discharged to the
foul sewer without the prior approval of the sewerage undertaker.
c. Garages and workshops
At sites such as garages, used oil can be generated in large
quantities. This oil can be collected by a registered waste carrier, or
alternatively it may be feasible to use it as a fuel for space heating.
This will require adequate storage to balance the supply with the
variation in demand through the year and will need an appropriate burner.
Such installations require authorisation by the local authority
environmental health department or in Scotland, SEPA. See Reference 3 for
further information on handling wastes from garages.
Transformer oil is a special oil used in electrical transformers.
Older transformers used Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB’s) and if these are
present they are likely to be classified as special waste (see Reference
2) and will require specialist handling. Advice should be sought from the
5. OIL STORAGE AND PIPELINES
In all cases, care must be taken when transfering waste oil to storage
facilities to avoid spillage. Any spills should be dealt with, using
a. Above ground storage
Separate guidelines for above ground oil storage tanks are available
(see Reference 4). In general, any oil storage tank or oil stored in drums
should be sited on an impervious base within an oil-tight bund. No
damp-proof course should be provided in the bund wall structure and there
should be no drainage outlet. The bunded area should be capable of
containing at least 110% of the volume of the tank or the largest drum and
fill pipes, funnels, draw pipes and sight gauges should be enclosed within
its curtilage. Any tank vent pipe should be directed downwards into the
b. Underground pipes
Underground oil pipelines may be subject to damage and corrosion and
above ground pipelines are preferred. When this is not practicable,
appropriate protective measures against damage and corrosion, such as
double wall piping or laying the pipe in a conduit, should be provided.
c. Underground tanks
Underground storage tanks may be subject to damage and corrosion,
leading to unseen leakage. Where their use is unavoidable, protective
measures such as a double skin and regular inspection and testing should
1. Waste Management - The duty of Care- A code of practice: ISBN
2. Classification of special waste: Information sheet 1:
Environment Agency Use of the consignment note: Information sheet 2:
Environment Agency Obtaining and sending consignment notes: Information
sheet 3: Environment Agency
A guide to the Special Waste Regulations, 1996: SEPA
3. PPG19: Garages and vehicle service centres
4. PPG2: Above ground oil storage tanks
References 2-4 are available free of charge from the Agencies