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Used Motor Vehicle Oil Storage Container Image

General Description

Motor oil that is drained from a motor vehicle or heavy equipment.

Summary of Federal Requirements

Used oil is defined as any oil that has been refined from crude oil or any synthetic oil that has been used and as a result of such use is contaminated by physical or chemical impurities (40 CFR 279.1.)

Most federal facilities accumulating used oil are operating as Used Oil Generators. A Used Oil Generator is any person, by site, whose act or process produces used oil or whose act first causes used oil to become subject to regulation (40 FR 279.1.)

Depending on the constituents of the used oil, it must be handled:

  • As a hazardous waste (If the used oil contains greater than or equal to 1,000 ppm total halogens, it is presumed to be a hazardous waste)
  • As a used oil under 40 CFR 279.
  • As some other classification (this is typically a state classification)

Used oil cannot be managed in surface impoundments or waste piles unless the units are subject to hazardous waste regulation under 40 CFR 264 or 40 CFR 265.

(NOTE: In relation to used oil coming ashore from vessels, the owner or operator of the vessel and the person removing or accepting used oil from the vessel are cogenerators of the used oil and are both responsible for managing the waste as used oil once it is ashore.)

If the used oil is presumed to be a hazardous waste because it contains greater than or equal to 1,000 ppm total halogens, demonstrating that the used oil does not contain hazardous waste may rebut the presumption.

  • The rebuttable presumption does not apply to metalworking oils/fluids containing chlorinated paraffins, if they are processed, through a tolling arrangement to reclaim metalworking oils/fluids.
  • The presumption does apply to metalworking oils/fluids if such oils/fluids are recycled in any other manner, or disposed.
  • The rebuttable presumption does not apply to used oils contaminated with chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) removed from refrigeration units if the CFC are destined for reclamation.
  • The rebuttable presumption does apply to used oils contaminated with CFCs that have been mixed with used oil from sources other than refrigeration units.)

Burning Used Oil

Generators are allowed to burn used oil in used oil-fired space heaters if:

  • the heater burns only used oil that the facility generates or used oil received from household DIY used oil generators
  • the heater is designed to have a maximum capacity of not more than 0.5 MBtu/h
  • the combustion gases from the heater are vented to the ambient air.


Containers used to store used oil at used oil generators must be in good condition and not leaking

The label USED OIL must be clearly marked on containers used to store used oil and fill pipes used to transfer used oil into underground storage facilities


Hazardous waste cannot be mixed with used oil unless:

  • the resulting mixture does not exhibit any characteristics of hazardous waste
  • the waste is hazardous solely because it exhibits the characteristic of ignitability and the mixture does not exhibit ignitability characteristic.

Spill Response

When a release is detected, the following must be done:

  • stop the release
  • contain the released used oil
  • clean up and manage properly the released used oil and other materials
  • repair or replace any leaking used oil storage containers or tanks prior to returning them to service.


Used oil must be transported by transporters who have a USEPA identification number.

One exception is if the Used Oil Generator is transporting the used oil themselves (without a USEPA identification number). In that case, the used oil must be going to an approved collection centers and the following parameters are met:

  • the used oil is generated at the generators site or is used oil collected from household do-it-yourselfers
  • the transporting vehicles is owned by the generator or an employee of the generator
  • no more than 55 gal is transported at any time
  • the used oil collection center is registered, licensed, permitted, or recognized by a state/county/municipal government to manage use oil.

A second exception is that Used Oil Generators may arrange for used oil to be transported by a transporter without an USEPA identification number if the used oil is reclaimed under a contractual agreement and the reclaimed oil is returned to the generator for use as lubricant, cutting oil, or coolant, and the contract (or tolling agreement) contains the following:

  • the type of used oil and frequency of shipments
  • verification that the vehicle used for transportation is owned by the used oil processor/refiner
  • verification that reclaimed oil will be returned to the generator.

Summary of State Requirements

Some states do not yet recognized the designation "Used Oil" but instead has a classification of "Waste Oil."

Laws and Statutes

Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, Subtitle C

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Regulatory Sources
40 CFR 279
Standards for the Management of Used Oil
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Last Updated: July 27, 2017