According to a 2017 report from the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), the DTSC discovered a significant number of undrained/improperly drained used oil filters that were sent to metal recycling facilities by generators of those filters.
This advisory explains DTSC’s regulations governing the management of used oil filters and highlights the draining techniques that DTSC has found to be most effective at removing residual oil from the filters. Generators who do not wish to manage used oil filters as hazardous waste must satisfy the California Code of Regulations, Title 22, section 66266.130.
Generators who drain oil filters at the facility where they were removed from vehicles and use the draining techniques described in the regulations are not required to obtain a hazardous waste facility permit or another form of authorization. Individual do-it-yourself (DIY) oil changes (does not include oil change or vehicle repair businesses) can take their used oil filters to either a Certified Collection Center approved by the Department of Resources, Recycling, and Recovery (CalRecycle) or to a Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility. Only Certified Collection Centers and Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facilities are allowed to accept DIY oil filters without a permit from DTSC.
The Certified Collection Centers and Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facilities are responsible, like all other generators, for properly draining all oil filters they receive before shipping them off-site for recycling. If the oil filters are not properly drained, they must be managed and shipped as hazardous waste under a hazardous waste manifest. Properly drained oil filters may be sent to recycling facilities using a bill of lading, and those facilities are allowed to process them without a permit or other authorization from DTSC. Recycling facilities accepting undrained oil filters (or other filter media cartridges that have no metal) must possess a standardized permit or be authorized by DTSC to accept and process undrained oil filters.
I’ve had no issues with draining my oil filters before. What’s different?
In the past, most metal canister type oil filters were designed so that gravity draining alone was effective at removing the free-flowing oil. To meet vehicle manufacturer and vehicle warranty specifications, oil filters in use today are equipped with an anti-drain-back valve device located just inside the filter inlet openings. This valve keeps oil in the filters when the engine is turned off. Most auto manufacturers require anti-drainback valves and most filter manufacturers now produce oil filters with anti-drain-back protection that will last for at least 12 hours. This valve ensures the filter is always full of oil when the vehicle is started.
How does this new filter design affect me?
Anti-drain-back valves have been found to prevent oil from fully draining from filters using traditional gravity draining techniques. This is believed to be the primary reason for the undrained or improperly drained oil filters that DTSC has found.
Tips for draining oil from filters
The regulations allow generators to manually manipulate the anti-drain-back valve to allow the free-flowing oil to exit the filter. However, this valve manipulation can be difficult and time-consuming, because the valve must be held open long enough to allow the oil to drain. It can also be difficult to hold the filter at the proper angle as the valve is being held open. Crushing or puncturing filters before gravity-draining (with the hole at the lowest point to facilitate drainage) is the most effective method for properly and reliably draining oil from the filters.
Gravity draining alone does not effectively or reliably drain spin-on canister filters, the most common type of oil filter. Therefore, one of the other allowable methods of draining should be used to drain those filters. To ensure that filters are emptied of all free-flowing oil, DTSC recommends that the filters be punctured, crushed or opened before draining.
Special note for filters without metal housings
Filters, including used oil filters without metal housings and used fuel filters without metal housings (also known as filter media cartridges or inserts), are not considered recyclable and cannot be managed in the same way as those with metal housings. See Section 25144.7 of the California Health and Safety Code for more information regarding the management of used fuel filters. Unless a generator demonstrates that the used filter media cartridges or inserts do not exhibit a hazardous waste characteristic, these must be collected and managed as hazardous waste, transported by a registered hazardous waste transporter with hazardous waste manifests, and sent to an authorized hazardous waste facility. These oil and fuel filter cartridges may not be mixed with used oil filters that have metal housings and are being recycled. This commingling would be a violation of the Hazardous Waste Control Law.
Please feel free to contact our Environmental Health & Safety Department if you have any questions. HTS will continue to update you as more information becomes available.