British Columbia

Changing your own oil? The biggest challenge may be finding somewhere to recycle it

A West Vancouver man says he spent hours trying to find a place to dispose of 12 litres of engine oil.

West Vancouver man spends hours trying to find location that will accept used oil

A West Vancouver man complained after getting the run-around when trying to responsibly dispose of his used engine oil. (Shutterstock)

Cole Montagano, 24, changes the oil in his 1997 Toyota Supra every couple of months. He does the job himself and, after the last couple of changes, had accumulated about 12 litres of old oil.

The West Vancouver resident decided it was time to get rid of the engine oil and set out to find a place to discard it.

"I thought it would be easy," said Montagano on Tuesday. "Boy, was I wrong."

First, he went to a Canadian Tire store, where he was told that they no longer collect used oil. Then Montagano tried a recycling depot. Staff there told him to take it to the transfer station. There, Montagano was told they don't accept used engine oil.

He tried a Mr. Lube shop, where they told him they could only take five litres. Finally, he found another oil change business willing to handle the remaining seven litres.

"It took me nearly four hours to eventually get rid of my oil. I know a lot of people aren't going to spend that kind of time trying to get rid of engine oil," said Montagano, adding he was worried about people polluting the environment by improperly discarding the stuff.

According to the industry association responsible for collecting used oil in the province, just four million out of 50 million litres each year comes directly from consumers — the rest comes from oil-change businesses.

This photo posted on the B.C. Used Oil Management Association's Facebook page shows an oil recycling facility in Parksville, B.C. (B.C. Used Oil/Facebook)

Program hiccups

Problems with drop-off locations started a couple years ago, when some Canadian Tire stores stopped taking part in the B.C. Used Oil Management Association program. Other places were overwhelmed with oil deposits and soon followed suit.

Since then, the association has been trying to transfer to municipal facilities and multi-material recycling depots, executive director David Lawes says.

"It's taken some time for sure," said Lawes. "Many of the major centres have solutions in place, North Vancouver being the exception."

Lawes suggested North Shore residents could take their oil to facilities in Burnaby and Vancouver.

"I understand people crossing the bridges is not desirable to take back recycling," said Lawes.

According to the Recycling Council of B.C., nearly 22,000 of the 215,000 calls for information they received last year were about engine oil.

Possible arrangement

Lawes said his association is in discussions with Metro Vancouver about installing infrastructure at the North Shore Transfer Station.

Metro Vancouver spokesperson Sarah Lusk said the regional government has never accepted used motor oil at any of its transfer stations. She noted that the oil is covered by an extended producer responsibility (EPR) program, so it's up to the manufacturers to deal with the issue.

But she added that Metro Vancouver is considering the idea of accepting oil in North Vancouver.

"We recognize there are difficulties with respect to consumer recycling of used motor oil on the North Shore and elsewhere," said Lusk.

According to Lawes, all of the oil collected by the B.C. Used Oil Management Association is sent to a North Vancouver refinery, where it's processed. He said 75 per cent is turned into lubrication fluid that goes back into the market.

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Follow Rafferty Baker on Twitter: @raffertybaker


Rafferty Baker is a video journalist with CBC News, based in Vancouver. You can find his stories on CBC Radio, television, and online at


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