Department of the Environment

About us | Contact us | Publications

Settlements Header ImageSettlements Header ImageSettlements Header Image

Publications archive - Human settlements


Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Used Oil in Australia

Prepared by Meinhardt Infrastructure & Environment Group
Environment Australia
January 2002

Collected Oil

The objective of this section is to examine the systems currently available for the collection of used oil and to quantify the amount of used oil currently being collected. The sources of collected used oil are identified where possible by industry or collection system. Additionally, this section investigates quantifying the different types of used oil currently being collected.

5.1 Collection System

5.1.1 Local and State Government

There are a number of programs and collection systems for used oil put in place by both Local and State Governments in Australia. These include the following.

Drop-off Facilities

Collection points for used oil are often available at waste disposal sites. These may range from a designated area for the placement of drums and containers to dedicated storage tanks. Oil deposited at these facilities is generally collected by private collectors under contract to the individual Local Government or landfill operators.

In most metropolitan and large regional waste management facilities, the collection infrastructure is well developed; it usually consists of a roofed, sealed and bunded area surrounding dedicated oil tanks. However this is not the case at all waste management facilities. At many rural landfills, bunding is not in place and the area is not sealed; this can potentially lead to significant spillage of used oil, both from leaking drums and spills as drums are emptied into larger containers. At small rural landfills, there is often no separation of oil at all, with oil and containers deposited direct to landfill trenches.

The collection of used oil at drop-off facilities also does not necessarily lead to its re-use. Two collectors contacted during the project advised that they will no longer collect used oil from Council-operated drop-off facilities. This was due to a lack of quality control and inappropriate use of facilities, leading to a high proportion of water and sludges being present in disposed oil. One stakeholder cited examples of Council facilities being used to incorrectly dispose of grease trap or wash-bay pit waste by individuals wishing to avoid payment for proper disposal. These wastes may settle after being placed in a container so that a layer of oil covers the sludge and as a result may be accepted in good faith by staff at the facility, however the quantity of recoverable oil will be marginal.

Household Hazardous Waste Collection

Waste oil is collected through household chemical collection programs managed by statutory authorities in several States, however collection figures are not available for all States. The collection of waste oil by these programs is largely viewed as an adjunct to the collection of chemicals and other hazardous substances of greater environmental and health concern, and will therefore vary between States depending on the goodwill of programs to accept waste oil.

The exception to this trend is South Australia, where the collection of waste oil is viewed as an inducement for members of the community to make use of the service. The waste oil collected through the South Australian program is transported to a commercial reprocessor. Similar arrangements exist in other States.

5.1.2 Commercial Collectors

The structure of the commercial collection and reprocessing industry has been documented in previous studies (EA 1999a,b). The industry is comprised of collectors who pick up waste oil from users for transportation to reprocessors, including recyclers who turn the waste oil into a usable product, and re-refiners who utilise more complex processes to derive value-added products from waste oil.

Advice received from stakeholders indicates that there is a significant concentration of commercial collectors in major metropolitan areas, as indicated by approximately 40 trucks operating in the Sydney metropolitan area. One stakeholder who was operating in rural areas indicated that it was relatively easy to locate sources of waste oil amongst the automotive repairers, Council workshops, farm contractors and transport contractors located in rural towns, however the quantity generated by these sources may only call for collection twice a year. Major collectors may send vehicles to more remote areas when closer sources cannot fulfil the demand for refinery feedstock. One stakeholder advised that this may result in 15,000 litres being collected from an assortment of mines and rural centres in western New South Wales every month.

The total number of trucks operating in the Melbourne metropolitan area has experienced a three-fold increase in recent years from 9 to 27 vehicles. This has coincided with a decrease in volumes being collected by each vehicle, due to competition for the same sources of waste oil.

Some commercial collectors may operate drop-off systems in order to capture some of the used oil generated by smaller users. These systems may be located at intermediary businesses such as service stations, and serve to concentrate used oil generated by individuals and small business so that the economy of collection is sufficiently viable. The operations identified during this study are partnerships between specific companies, and are not part of coordinated programs administered by industry associations. Drop-off facilities may also be provided by commercial operators at their depots, such as the one maintained by Southern Oil Refineries at one of their depots in New South Wales.

A number of stakeholders advised that the core group of collectors face seasonal competition from smaller operators who enter the market at particular times to exploit peaks in demand. Particular examples are the supply of burning oil to hydroponic and hothouse growers in colder months, and to sugar mills during harvest season. This competition usually involves undercutting of regular supplies to major collectors, made possible by the lower capital and operating costs borne by seasonal collectors. The demand from sugar mills has fluctuated due to the conversion of mills to bagasse, however a market for waste oil still exists when husks and processing waste are too wet to burn.

Undercutting of major collectors by small operators can lead to less oil being reused. This issue was identified by the Queensland EPA as a contributor to a major incident of illegal dumping of waste oil which occurred recently (refer Section 6.2.4).

5.1.3 Direct Re-use

In addition to the collection of used oil from industries by commercial operations, commercial and industrial businesses may operate in-house collection systems for used oil. Establishing an internal system requires sufficient volume of used oil to make its collection economical, and is also dependent on a business having the opportunity to re-use the oil as a substitute for a more expensive alternative; this suggests that such activities are restricted to larger industrial complexes.

An example of such a system is in place at the steel refinery complex at Whyalla (South Australia), where used engine and gear oil is collected and stored at a designated depot, and oily water is collected on-site and sent to a lined pit adjacent to the landflll. The oil collected through these processes is then added to reprocessed oil purchased from a commercial supplier, which is used as a coal spray during coke-making.

Not all direct uses are dependent on economies of scale. An analysis of life-cycle emissions by alternative fuels for diesel engines conducted by CSIRO (Beer et al. 2000) reported on the direct blending of crankcase waste oil with diesel fuel. This may occur at the time of vehicle servicing. This is reported to be common in remote mining locations where oil disposal is difficult, and is also practised by transport fleet operators.

Direct blending may also occur through continuous blending during vehicle operation, where computerised systems continually replenish the crankcase with new oil and blend minute quantities of the used oil with diesel fuel for combustion. This latter activity should be regarded as being distinct from normal consumption and loss through use, as it constitutes deliberate reuse rather than operational loss.

5.2 Collection Estimates

5.2.1 Previous Estimates

A survey of all major and most minor collectors estimated that 91 of the 262 megalitres of recoverable oil was collected in 1990 (ANZEC 1991). The lubricants collected included automotive petrol engine oils, automotive diesel engine oils, transmission fluids, hydraulic oils as well as transformer oil, turbine oil, cutting oil and bunker or bilge oils. The proportion of each lubricant type being collected is not specified in the report. Slightly revised figures were subsequently released in a 1992 ANZECC report on waste oil and tyres suggesting a recovered volume of 93 megalitres (EA 1999b).

A more recent survey estimated that 152 of the 253 megalitres of recoverable oil was collected in 1996 (AIP 1998). The performance of used oil collection by State / Territory is outlined below in Table 5.1. As was the case with the survey by ANZEC, the AIP survey report did not attribute proportions of the collected oil to particular lubricant categories.

It should be noted that the value for the survey result for Queensland cited in Table 5.1 is taken from Appendix 3 of the AIP report, and is approximately 3 megalitres greater than that quoted in the body of the AIP report. The reason for this discrepancy is not clear, however it has been assumed that the more detailed values provided in Appendix 3 of the report are correct.

Table 5.1 Used Oil Collection Performance (1996)

State/Territory Survey Result
Estimated Additional
Estimated Total
% of Used Oil
NSW & ACT 29.6 25.0 54.6 71
NT 0.1 2.4 2.5 69
Qld 23.2 5.0 28.2 47
SA 10.0 - 10.0 75
Tas 0.5 2.0 2.5 76
Vic 27.6 2.0 29.6 78
WA 24.7 - 24.7 69
Total 115.6 36.4 152.0 60

Source: AIP 1998

The results of the survey were adjusted by AIP to account for volumes not recorded in the survey (i.e. by collectors and reprocessors other than those who responded to the survey). Given that there was no information to suggest comparatively poor performance, an estimated additional quantity was added to the total quantity collected in several States to reflect the average performance of other States and Territories.

The most significant adjustment was made for New South Wales, increasing the survey result by 83% to account for volumes collected by non-respondents. No specific reason for this increase was cited by AIP, however, it can be assumed that it is the result of one or many oil collectors that collect a significant quantity of used oil not responding to the survey. No explanation was provided within the report as to why values for South Australia and Western Australia were not adjusted, however it may be assumed that this indicates that all collectors within those States responded to the survey.

The AIP report suggests that the total used oil collected in Australia may be underestimated due to the omission of volumes collected by either seasonal collectors or collectors that had exited the market after 1996. If those factors were accommodated, then, according to the AIP report, the percentage of used oil collected in Australia in 1996 might exceed 65% or 163 megalitres.

Estimates made by the Oil Recycling Association of Australia (ORAA) deducted 150 megalitres from total sales in 1996 to account for consumption during use, and approximated that 128 megalitres were collected (EA 1999b). More recent estimates from ORAA approximate that 186 megalitres of waste oils were reused in 1999. Given that advice from stakeholders suggests that sales of reprocessed oil are slightly lower than collection volumes, the actual volume collected may be higher than the estimate of reuse would indicate.

A previous study that compared the estimates for 1996 made by AIP and ORAA with earlier ANZECC estimates questioned the magnitude of the apparent increase over time, and suggested that the discrepancy may be affected both by under-reporting in the ANZECC survey and by exaggeration of quantities reported more recently (EA 1999b).

Few studies have been conducted by State and Territory environmental authorities to assess the volume of used oil being collected. Estimates prepared by the SA EPA suggest that 11 megalitres of used oil was reused in 2000, compared to 10.5 megalitres in 1995/6. Whilst these estimates have been termed "rough" by the SA EPA, they compare well to the estimates made by AIP. Estimates of a similar nature were not available for other States and Territories.

5.2.2 Stakeholder Advice

Thirteen of the nineteen collectors and reprocessors contacted during the study provided approximations of either monthly or yearly volumes of oil collected. Partial volumes collected by two other reprocessors were extrapolated from the volume sold to major customers. It is noted that the number of companies contacted does not account for all companies involved in the collection and reprocessing of used oil, particularly given that 57 companies were contacted in 1996 for the AIP survey (AIP 1998). Detailed responses cover all States and Territories except the Northern Territory and Tasmania. Assessment of the geographic coverage and volume collected, as well as previous assessments of market share indicated by previous studies (EA 1999a,b), suggests that the companies contacted during this study account for the dominant share of the market.

Approximately 144 megalitres are collected annually by the collectors and reprocessors contacted. Volumes known to be forwarded by collectors to reprocessors have been omitted to reduce double-counting, however it is possible that some instances of forwarding may not have been identified during consultation and therefore some quantities may have inadvertently been counted twice. If it is assumed that the collectors contacted during this study represent only the dominant share of the market, then the actual total for all collections may be up to 25% greater than the volume stated.

Assumption 15: Those collectors and reprocessors contacted during this study represent 75% of the total used oil collection market. This assumption is an informed estimate based on previous studies and stakeholder information.

The value given above refers only to the volume collected by commercial operators. The figure also assumes that, where the volumes collected through Government-operated collections were forwarded to commercial operators, that those volumes are accounted for in approximations provided by the recipients of that oil.

It is difficult to quantify the impact of oil collection for direct re-use on the total volume being collected.

Assumption 16: It is assumed that direct collection of used oil by industry is restricted to major companies with the facilities to use waste oil as a fuel, and that this fuel use constitutes a minor proportion of their overall fuel oil demand. The overall volume of waste oil collected for direct re-use is expected to be approximately 10% of the total volume collected by commercial operators.

If the above factors are taken into consideration, then the overall estimate of used oil collected in Australia lies within the approximate range of 150 to 200 megalitres. The lower end of this estimated range is in broad agreement with estimates made by AIP and ORAA, and is similar to estimates reported previously by EA (1999a).

Assumption 17: Based on stakeholder advice, previous surveys and additional information from collectors and reprocessors, it is assumed that the volume of used oil collected in Australia is between 150 to 200 megalitres.

By reporting a range of waste oil collected, errors resulting from the various assumptions made are minimised. It should be noted, however, that this range is based mostly on information provided by used oil collectors and reprocessors thus is reported in good faith.

5.3 Collected Used Oil Sources

5.3.1 Commercial Collections

The information provided by stakeholders did not identify the sources of collected used oil with any great detail. The most common source was from automotive repairers and similar mechanical workshops. Transport contractors were also a common source. Less common sources included earthmoving contractors and Council depots. It should not be inferred that the commonality of these sources equates to a dominant proportion of volumes collected, as it is conceivable that less common sources (e.g. mine sites) may generate a far greater volume of used oil.

Several companies reported unique collection sources such as airports, farm contractors, larger farms, the mining sector or railways. The term "unique" is used in this context only to indicate that the particular source was not specified by more than one stakeholder, and should not be inferred to mean that the stakeholders mentioning these sources are the sole enterprise collecting from those sectors.

The proportion of used oil sourced from particular sectors is likely to vary significantly, not only between States and Territories but also between regions within each State and Territory. One stakeholder indicated that the principal sources of collected used oil were automotive repairers and the mining sector, however the percentage of collected used oil sourced from the mining sector varied between regions within the one State from 15% to 95%.

Fourteen stakeholders provided information on the categories of used oil being collected. All of these stakeholders collected automotive petrol and diesel engine oils. More than half of these stakeholders collected automotive transmission fluid, gear oils and hydraulic brake fluid. Approximately one-third collected industrial gear oils. Only two companies collected industrial hydraulic oils, and two companies collected aviation oils. Greases, industrial metal-working oils, other industrial oils and specialty oils were collected by one company in each instance.

With the exception of two stakeholders, the details provided did not divide the total volume into portions for particular lubricant types. In each instance, automotive lubricants dominated the quantity of oil collected, ranging from 80% to 98% of the total lubricants collected. Automotive diesel and petrol engine oils accounted for over 95% of collection for one of the stakeholders. One of the stakeholders stated that an additional 15% of used oil was comprised of industrial lubricants, whereas the other did not collect any industrial lubricants. Both stakeholders collected very small quantities of aviation oil (less than 5%).

An indication of used oil generation by industry may be provided by records of manifested (i.e. tracked through certificates or other record-keeping) waste transportation as collected by the Australian Waste Database Project ( The Australian Waste Database (AWD) data is principally derived from transport certificates that have been prepared by licensed commercial waste transporters as part of their obligations to State and Territory environmental agencies. The provision of licenses to collect or dispose of waste oil by States reflects the regulatory status of waste oil (i.e. whether it is listed as a controlled, hazardous or prescribed waste). Given that the regulatory status of waste oil is presently being reviewed by some States and Territories in order to provide for consistency across Australia, it may be inferred that the presence or absence and detail of historical records will reflect variations in status across States and Territories.

The AWD refers to the volume of waste oil recorded in their database as "generation" by industry divisions, however this has been redefined as "collection" for this study in order to avoid confusion with the volumes discussed in Chapter 4.

It is important to note that the volumes recorded include a number of different types of collected waste oil, ranging from contaminated lubricating and hydraulic oils, water and oil sludges with high sludge content, and mixtures of oil and water that may be mainly water (e.g. cutting oils and soluble oils).

Table 5.2 indicates the manifested quantities of three minor waste oil categories collected per annum in Adelaide and Sydney. The minor waste type classification "contaminated oils (lubricating, hydraulic)" used to report data in Adelaide and Sydney has been assumed to be most similar to the ANZECC minor waste type "waste mineral oils unfit for their original intended use (lubricating, hydraulic)", and as such implies that it most closely represents the waste oil category that would yield greatest quantities of recoverable oil.

Table 5.2 Waste Oil Collected from Adelaide and Sydney Industries by Category

Waste Oil Category Adelaide1
Maximum (ML
Contaminated oils (lubricating, hydraulic) 1.3 2.5 1.1 2.3
Water/oil sludge (high sludge content) 19.7 20.4 1.1 1.5
Oil, water mixture (mainly water, e.g. cutting oils, soluble oils, etc.) 0.3 0.7 5.1 10.2
Total 21.4 23.6 7.3 14.0

Source: Australian Waste Database
Notes: 1. Includes both Adelaide and Outer Adelaide

The proportion of total collected contaminated oils may vary widely, as indicated by the difference between the percentage of average annual total generation of contaminated oil in Adelaide (approximately 6%) and Sydney (approximately 15%).

The proportion of contaminated oil may also vary significantly from year to year, as indicated by comparison of the average annual and maximum quantities of other forms of waste oil. Care must be taken when analysing AWD data in order to account for the varying grades of different waste oil types. As such, the information provided by AWD will largely be discussed in terms of percentages rather than values

Table 5.3 indicates the manifested quantities of used oil collected during the early 1990s in Adelaide, Sydney and Western Australia. Comparable data for other States or Territories are not available.

Table 5.3 Manifested Quantities of Used Oil Collected by Region (%)

ASIC Division Adelaide1
1990-92, 1994-952,3
A: Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing and Hunting - - 0.1 0.1 0.0
B: Mining - - 0.1 0.2 1.0
C: Manufacturing 2.8 3.7 43.8 46.9 15.7
D: Electricity, Gas and Water - - 1.4 1.3 8.4
E: Construction 0.0 0.0 1.7 1.4 3.2
F: Wholesale and Retail Trade 0.0 0.0 3.3 2.3 11.9
G: Transport and Storage - - 9.1 6.9 12.0
H: Communication 0.7 2.2 0.0 0.0 0.1
I: Finance, Property and Business Services - - 0.7 0.7 2.5
J: Public Administration and Defence 0.0 0.0 22.0 22.0 0.0
K: Community Services 0.0 0.0 17.5 18.1 0.7
L: Recreation, Personal and Other Services 0.0 0.0 0.2 0.2 0.0
Unlicensed - - - - 44.5
Unknown 96.5 94.0 - - -

Source: Australian Waste Database

  1. Includes both Adelaide and Outer Adelaide
  2. Data for Adelaide and Outer Adelaide not available for 1993
  3. Data for Adelaide and Outer Adelaide for 1994 and 1995 have been reorganised from ANZSIC to ASIC divisions.
  4. Data for Western Australia for the 1994/95 financial year only

Table 5.3 indicates that a significant volume of waste oil collected in Adelaide was recorded without being ascribed to a specific industry division. Given the source of AWD data, it is possible that the lack of detail is a result of either the transport certificate forms or the responses from operators providing an insufficient level of information. Slightly less than half of the total recorded volumes in Western Australia were collected from unlicensed premises and therefore are not segregated into industry divisions. The distribution of the unknown or unlicensed volumes cannot be determined and therefore the actual distribution of volume across industry divisions may differ from that shown.

It must also be noted that the quantity of manifested hazardous waste oils collected annually by industry in Adelaide between 1990 and 1992 derived from the AWD have been reported differently by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS 1997). Within that report, 204 kilolitres are recorded against Transport and Storage, and no volumes are recorded against Communication Services. This may indicate an error in the transcription of data by either AWD or ABS.

The comparative quality of data provided for Sydney and Western Australia is sufficient to allow general observations on the distribution of waste oil collection across industry divisions. Key findings for selected industry divisions are provided below.

Agriculture, Fishing, Forestry and Hunting

Table 5.3 indicates that this sector currently contributes to a minor proportion of the total volume of waste oil collected in Australia. This compares well to advice from stakeholders, which suggested that the volume of used oil collected from the agricultural sector is relatively low. It does not, however, indicate that this industry produces an insignificant quantity of potentially collectable waste oil.

One stakeholder indicated that farms may purchase between 500 and 2,000 litres of oil per year. Approximately 10% of larger farms are being serviced within one stakeholder's area, with pickups from those farms occurring every 12 to 18 months and yielding up to 2,000 litres of used oil per farm.

One stakeholder indicated that rural properties may have varying quantities of waste oil in storage, particularly as the market structure that existed until the mid-1990s placed a cost on collection of oil that may have provided a disincentive to arrange collections. Another stakeholder recalled being approached at a rural show by one farmer with approximately 10,000 litres of oil stored in an un-bunded area on their farm, who wished to know what he might be paid to have it collected. Given that the stakeholder declined to take the oil due to the cost of recovery, the farmer indicated that they would either continue to stockpile or bury the stored oil.

Electricity, Gas and Water

It is interesting to note that, of the volumes indicated in Table 5.3, the fourth-largest volume recorded in Western Australia is for this sector. The high percentage of total volume that is not allocated to specific divisions may suggest that this is the result of administrative compliance by that sector rather than a high generation rate. It may also indicate a high volume of transformer oils being collected during that year, however this has not been verified.


The volume of waste oil collected from the construction sector indicated in Table 5.3 is relatively low for each State. Given that several stakeholders indicated that they collected from earthmoving contractors, it is expected that this sector would have slightly higher volumes than shown.

Retail and Wholesale Trade

Table 5.3 indicates that businesses within the Retail and Wholesale Trade sector contribute the third largest quantity of collected waste oil in Western Australia. Given that subdivisions within the retail sector include automotive repairers, it would be expected that this sector would have a higher total than that shown, and should also be significantly higher for New South Wales and South Australia.

Transport and Storage

Table 5.3 indicates that a more significant quantity of used oil is collected from Transport and Storage industries from Western Australia when compared to Sydney, with the second largest quantity excluding that attributed to unlicensed industries. If it is assumed that volumes for Transport and Storage have been erroneously recorded against the Communication sector in Adelaide, then this sector is also significant for that State.

A recent report entitled Rail in Sustainable Transport (Rail Group of the Standing Committee on Transport 2001) quotes advice from the Australian Trucking Association that 115 megalitres of used oil is collected within this sector, with 92% of that total being recycled as fuel oil, 2.5% recycled as lubricant and 5% stored. Were this the case, then comparison with the estimates in Section 5.2 would suggest that the transport sector accounts for over half of the total volume of waste oil collected in Australia.

It must be noted that this estimate is assumed to account for collections from road transport only. Whilst road transport accounts for a significant proportion of Australia's transport, it is expected that the transport of goods by air, rail and sea will also contribute to the total volume collected from this sector.

Public Administration and Defence

Table 5.3 indicates that the second-largest collection source in Sydney was within the Public Administration and Defence sector, which recorded a considerably higher percentage than in the other two States. As Public Administration and Defence includes all levels of Government, it is possible that the large percentage results from more stringent disposal policies in place within Government bodies.

Community Services

Table 5.3 indicates that Community Services was the third-highest collection source of waste oil in New South Wales, with significantly smaller percentages recorded in Western Australia and Adelaide. Community services include waste disposal services, suggesting that the volumes recorded represent material originally collected through other waste collection operations.


In comparison to the industry divisions discussed above, the AWD contains more detailed information relating to the volume of collected waste oil from manufacturing subdivisions. It may be inferred that this focus reflects underpinning assumptions regarding the utility of the database to monitor advances in cleaner production and waste minimisation in the manufacturing industry. Table 5.3 indicates that the manufacturing sector accounts for a significant proportion of collected waste oil, which provides further justification for the greater level of detail supplied by AWD for this sector.

The volumes of collected waste oil by specific subdivisions of the manufacturing sector are shown in Table 5.4 below. The very high percentage of total waste oil attributed to the manufacture of chemical, petroleum and coal products in Melbourne may reflect the transport of water / oil and oily sludge mixtures from these industries.

Table 5.4 Manifested Quantities of Waste Oil Collected by ASIC Manufacturing Subdivision (%)

ASIC Division Volume of Waste Oil Generated p.a.
21: Food, beverages and tobacco 0.2 0.3 6.7 -
23: Textiles - 1.0 1.1 -
24: Clothing and footwear - 0.0 0.1 -
25: Wood, wood products and furniture 0.1 0.0 0.4 2.7
26: Paper, paper products, printing and publishing - 0.1 0.5 -
27: Chemical, petroleum and coal products 16.4 91.3 18.9 -
28: Non-metallic mineral products - 0.0 1.0 1.1
29: Basic metal products - 1.1 24.4 -
31: Fabricated metal products 81.1- 0.7 18.6 6.7
32: Transport equipment 2.1 1.2 0.9 16.0
33: Other machinery and equipment - - 24.4 73.6
34: Miscellaneous Manufacturing 0.0 4.2 3.1 -

Source: Australian Waste Database

  1. includes both Adelaide and Outer Adelaide
  2. data for Adelaide and Outer Adelaide for 1994 and 1995 are classified by ANZSIC subdivision and cannot be regrouped according to ASIC subdivisions, and as such have been omitted

Table 5.5 indicates the manifested quantities of contaminated lubricant and hydraulic oils generated per annum by manufacturing subdivision in Adelaide and Sydney. Note that, due to the comparatively small quantities of contaminated oil recorded against these subdivisions, the data are presented in kilolitres rather than megalitres.

The volumes in Table 5.5 below compare well with the percentages in Table 5.4, and indicate that a significant volume is collected from businesses within the Chemical, Petroleum and Coal Products sector. Businesses within the Fabricated Metal Products sector account for a smaller yet still significant proportion of collected waste oil. Other sectors account for varying proportions of the total volume collected, which is presumed to reflect the manufacturing industry profile of each region.

Table 5.5 Contaminated Oil Collected from Adelaide and Sydney Manufacturers

ASIC Code Adelaide1
Maximum (kL) p.a.
Maximum (kL)
21: Food, beverages and tobacco 2 7 2 8
23: Textiles - - - -
24: Clothing and footwear - - 4 7
25: Wood, wood products and furniture 1 2 - -
26: Paper, paper products, printing and publishing - - 1 3
27: Chemical, petroleum and coal products 54 100 601 1,623
28: Non-metallic mineral products - - 25 53
29: Basic metal products - - 3 8
31: Fabricated metal products 5 11 252 301
32: Transport equipment 7 10 - -
33: Other machinery and equipment - - - -
34: Miscellaneous Manufacturing 0 1 - -
Total 69 113 888 1,944

Source: Australian Waste Database
Notes: 1. Includes both Adelaide and Outer Adelaide

Comparison of the mean and maximum quantities generated in Adelaide and Sydney indicates that the quantity of waste oil available for collection varies significantly from year to year. Whilst this may be influenced by the quality of primary data, it may also indicate that the market is subject to periodic fluctuation.

Comparison of the total volume for manufacturing industries in Table 5.5 with the total volume for all industry sectors in Table 5.2 indicates that the manufacturing sector accounts for 80% of the average annual volume of contaminated oils transported in Sydney. The percentage indicated for Adelaide is significantly lower, being 5%, however the large volume of waste oil that was not allocated to particular industry divisions may have significantly skewed this percentage.

5.3.2 Disposal by Households

A survey of disposal methods used by households conducted in March 2000 indicates that approximately 447,000 surveyed households took their used automotive oil to a business or a shop (ABS 2001a). This represents approximately 43% of all households disposing of used automotive oil, and is a significant increase from the 23% observing the same practice in 1996.

This increase may be the result of an expansion in the availability of used oil collection services at businesses and shops. Additionally, increased awareness of used oil as a resource and the environmental consequences of inappropriate disposal of such a resource, may have encouraged people to be more proactive in sourcing used oil collection facilities.

One collector advised that his company had recovered approximately 45,000 litres of used lubricating oil between September 2000 and August 2001 from the collection of 4 litre packs sold to the household sector through bins in service stations in the Sydney metropolitan area. The collection rate varied considerably over the year reported, however a significant decrease was attributed to closure of service stations or withdrawal from the collection system, which halved the number of collection bins in use by the end of the year.

One private drop-off facility in Sydney receives approximately 10 visits per week with individual drop-offs ranging in volume from 15 to 100 litres. Advice received from the operator indicates that the largest users of this facility are, in order of volume, rural users, mobile mechanics and home mechanics.

The ABS survey indicated that approximately 181,000 households (18% of total) disposed of used automotive oil in a "special area" in March 2000, which is a significant decrease from 1996 (23%). The exact definition of "special area" as characterised by ABS is not known, but is thought to indicate an area (e.g. landfill, transfer station, etc.) which includes oil collection facilities. The decrease may be the result of used oil being deposited at shops or businesses rather then 'special areas'.

Disposal in the domestic garbage collection has also declined, from 10.8% of total disposal in 1996 to 7.2% in 2000. Again, this is likely to be the result of alternative disposal methods becoming more accessible and a raised awareness of the environmental issues associated with used oil. Other methods, such as burial, pouring down the drain, special services and central collections are minor contributors with the exception of "other" unspecified methods, which accounted for 16.7% of total disposal in 2000 compared to 18.1% in 1996. The increase in disposal to other methods may indicate an increase in the range of disposal options available. Less than one-fifth of all households estimated to be disposing of hazardous waste in 2000 disposed of used automotive oil through one method or another.

5.3.3 Disposal Through Centralised Collection Systems

Approximately 276 tonnes of waste oil has been collected through EcoRecycle Victoria's Household Chemical Collection Program since 1997. While this may indicate an average annual collection of approximately 69 tonnes of waste oil, the increased success of the program in more recent years is likely to have skewed the calculated average.

A similar program has been in operation in South Australia since May 2000 and had collected approximately 149 tonnes of waste oil by the end of September 2001. The volume collected per year increased significantly, from approximately 6 tonnes in 2000 to approximately 144 tonnes in 2001. Details of the quantities collected in both years are provided in Table 5.6. The program manager advised that whilst the increase from 2000 to 2001 is principally the result of more comprehensive advertising, the selection of more remote areas for the second year of collection has also meant that users are less likely to have access to alternate means of proper disposal.

Table 5.6 Waste Oil Collected by SA ChemCollect Program (2000-2001)

Collection area Year of Collection Amount
Adelaide Hills 2000
Fleurieu Peninsula 2000 1,441
Kangaroo Island 2001 5,336
Lower Eyre Peninsula 2001 74,183
Lower South East 2001 31,980
Murraylands 2000 2,372
Riverland 2001 32,020
Yorke Peninsula 2000 1,680

Source: SA EPA unpublished
Notes: 1. These amounts represent the net weight of waste oil received, as weighed by the collection contractors

5.3.4 Direct Re-use

Advice from the steel refinery complex at Whyalla indicates that up to 1,000 litres of used engine and gear oil is collected and stored every week. Oil is also recovered from their lined pit whenever it is full and the oil / water mix has settled (which may be every 2 to 3 months) and will yield 5,000 - 10,000 litres.

The exact quantity of waste oil that is directly blended with diesel fuel at the time of vehicle servicing was estimated by CSIRO to be less than 5% of total waste oil in Australia (Beer et al. 2000). The number of diesel engines in use in Australia that are equipped to blend oil with fuel during operation (e.g. the Cummins "Sentinel" system) is unknown, however advice indicates that this is a relatively new technology and will therefore not account for a significant proportion of used oil collected.

5.4 Summary

Waste oil is collected both by commercial operators and through Government programs, however the volume collected by the latter will in many instances be forwarded to the former. Waste oil may also be collected by operators within specific industry sectors for direct re-use.

The volume of waste oil collection has been estimated by previous studies as being within the range of 91 to 186 megalitres. Advice received from collectors and reprocessors indicates that approximately 144 megalitres are collected annually by the companies contacted. Accounting for additional volumes collected by companies that did not provide information, and for collection for direct re-use, suggests a range of 150 to 200 megalitres.

By reporting a range of waste oil collected, errors resulting from the various assumptions made are minimised. It should be noted, however, that this range is based mostly on information provided by used oil collectors and reprocessors thus is reported in good faith.

It is difficult to quantify the proportion of used oil being sourced according to particular industries or collection systems, however AWD records suggest that significant quantities are collected from the manufacturing sector, and stakeholder advice indicates that automotive repairers and similar mechanical workshops are a common source for commercial collections. Similarly, it is difficult to quantify the types of oil being collected, however stakeholder advice suggests that the bulk of collected oil is automotive engine oil.