Recyclers make slick pitch with improvements to oil, antifreeze collection

The B.C. Used Oil Management Association hopes coming improvements at bottle depots will help them collect more oil in an environmentally responsible way.

Professor says offering incentive could slightly increase amount recycled

The B.C. Used Oil Management Association has announced new grants that it hopes will make oil and antifreeze recycling more convenient for British Columbians. (Shutterstock)

Getting British Columbians to properly recycle products like used oil can sometimes be a slippery task.

The B.C. Used Oil Management Association hopes new improvements at bottle depots and other recycling facilities will change that, so oil can be collected in an environmentally responsible way.

The association announced new grants to install more tanks and covered sheds at facilities across the province to make recycling easier for consumers and facility operators.

"It's free and easy to access. All you need to do is bring your used oil or antifreeze in a sealed container to one of the recycling depots," said association director David Lawes.

"Drop it with the staff and they can take it from there."

David Lawes, executive director of the B.C. Used Oil Management Association, stands in front of a newly installed container full of waste oil receptacles at a recycling depot. (Kari Kylo)

The association hopes to improve sites across B.C. within a year or two, Lawes said.

The oil, once collected, can be turned into new lubricants or used as fuel. The antifreeze can be filtered and reused in vehicles.

Problems for some shops

Changes to the way the liquids are collected have led to some frustrations in recent years.

Consumers used to be able to drop off used oil and antifreeze at most retailers where it was sold. However, some stores have cut back on the number of locations accepting waste.

"Retailers were getting late-night drop offs, sometimes 'mystery material' with jars of unlabelled liquids and even materials that weren't even part of our program, like TVs or couches," Lawes explained.

"So there has been some disruption from where people were used to taking back their oil and antifreeze."

A collection of oil barrels at a B.C. garage. Problems with capacity have plagued some small shops that collect used oil and antifreeze. (BC Used Oil Management Association/Facebook)

Alfred Lal, owner of Vancouver West Motors, said his garage on Fraser Street stopped collecting oil and antifreeze from the public because the small operation can't handle the sheer volume from their auto work while also taking in the public's oil.

"Some people have come in with 20 litres of waste oil … it's a great burden on us," he said.

Lal said he's been dealing with people trying to bring oil to his shop for months. In some cases, they simply leaving jugs outside the shop.

He thinks retailers selling the oil should have to collect the aftermath, but he also wants to see improvements and simplicity for the public returning it on their own.

Convenience most important: researcher

Lawes called it "unfathomable" for anyone to not properly recycle oil and antifreeze: the liquids, if dumped, are harmful to the environment.

He said most British Columbians live within a half-hour drive of a depot.

The association's 2017 annual report shows 69 per cent of the recoverable oil was collected last year but only 43 per cent of recoverable antifreeze.

UBC associate professor Jiaying Zhao, who studies psychology and sustainability, says the association could consider offering a monetary incentive to increase those rates — but convenience is the most important factor for recycling programs.

"Is it actually easy for me to do? Do I need to make another trip to dispose of these materials? Or is it really close to my home or work?" Zhao asked.

"People recycle their paper… without getting any incentives back. They do it because they want to help the environment."

Lawes says anyone looking for a place to drop off used oil or antifreeze can find a depot on the association's website.