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Used Oil

Used oil is any oil, whether refined from crude or synthetic, that has been contaminated by physical or chemical impurities as a result of use. Typical uses include automotive and industrial lubricants, including spent motor oil, hydraulic fluids, refrigeration coolants, metalworking and cutting oils, and electrical insulating oil. Among the facilities generating used oil are vehicle repair shops, fleet maintenance facilities, industries, non-profit organizations, government agencies, and educational institutions. Used oil is also generated by private citizens who change the motor oil on their own vehicles and are known as "household do-it-yourself oil changers" or DIYs.

Household Do-It-Yourselfer (DIY) Used Oil Recycling

New York State law requires numerous service and retail locations to accept used oil from household DIYs (who is otherwise exempt from regulation) for recycling. Under Article 23, Title 23 of the Environmental Conservation Law (ECL) (link leaves DEC's website), any service establishment that sells at least 500 gallons per year of new oil and performs vehicle servicing must accept from the public, at no charge, up to 5 gallons of used oil per person per day. Retailers who don't service vehicles but sell at least 1,000 gallons per year of new oil must either accept used oil from the public, as service establishments do, or contract to have another service or retail establishment accept it on their behalf. Some municipalities in New York State also collect DIY used oil as part of their Household Hazardous Waste Program.

It's against the law to improperly dispose of used oil (e.g., dumping oil on the ground, in the street, down the drain, etc.). Instead of dumping your used oil, take it to a service establishment (quick lube facilities, gas stations, car garages, dealerships or marinas who provide oil changing services) or a retail establishment (big box stores or automotive parts stores that sell significant quantities of new lubricating oil) for recycling. Used motor oils, transmission fluids, hydraulic fluids, and gear oils are all considered used oil and can be recycled.

Make sure to keep your used oil separate from other wastes; don't mix your oil with other petroleum products or hazardous wastes like gasoline or solvents. Store the oil in a clean plastic container with a tight fitting lid and make sure to take it to a service or retail establishment for recycling.

While service and retail establishments may temporarily refuse to accept used oil if their used oil tanks are temporarily full, they must make arrangements to have their tanks emptied and inform the household DIY when they can come back to drop off their used oil. Retail establishments that cannot provide used oil collection services, but who are subject to this requirement under the law, must make other arrangements to provide this service elsewhere and have a sign providing information about this alternate location where household DIYs can take their used oil for recycling.

Regulatory Format

The State's used oil regulations are located in Subpart 6 NYCRR 374-2: Standards for the Management of Used Oil and are based largely upon the RCRA-based federal used oil regulations in 40 CFR 279 (links leave DEC's website). Federally based management standards are provided in 374-2 for used oil generators, transporters and transfer facilities, processors and re-refiners, and for facilities that burn used oil for energy recovery. This Subpart also provides standards for marketing used oil as a fuel, standards for used oil disposal, and the ECL-based requirements concerning acceptance of DIY used oil by service establishments and retailers. Section 374-2.10, in conjunction with Part 360 (links leave DEC's website), provides permitting requirements for used oil transfer facilities, processors and re-refiners, and registration requirements for used oil collection centers. Section 374-2.10 also lists the types of facilities and operations that are exempt from permitting.

Recycling Presumption

Used oil regulations are based upon the "Recycling Presumption" of 374-2.2(a)(1) (link leaves DEC's website), which states that used oil that acquired hazardous characteristics during its use as an oil (as a lubricant, for example) is exempt from hazardous waste regulation on the presumption that the oil will eventually be recycled. Mixing the oil with hazardous wastes or disposing the oil instead of recycling it invalidates the presumption. Provided that no mixing or disposal occurs, the oil is subject to its own set of regulatory standards, whether or not it displays any hazardous characteristics. Therefore, unlike other wastes, there is no need for a used oil generator to perform a hazardous waste determination when the used oil is generated.

Storage Requirements

Used oil may be stored in tanks (stationary) or containers (portable), including drums.

All aboveground tanks and containers must be kept in good condition and must not leak. Aboveground tanks, containers, and the fill pipes of underground tanks must be labeled "USED OIL", and aboveground tanks must be labeled with the tank's design and working capacity, and API color code symbol (purple square for used oil).

The fill pipes of underground tanks must also be labeled with the tank's capacity and API color code symbol (purple square for used oil). Underground tanks are subject to the requirements of the federal Underground Storage Tank (UST) regulations in 40 CFR 280 (link leaves DEC's website).

All aboveground and underground used oil tanks, regardless of capacity, are subject to the standards of New York State's Petroleum Bulk Storage regulations in Part 613 (link leaves DEC's website), including registration of all used oil tanks, monthly visual inspection of aboveground tanks, and standards for new tank installations.

Secondary containment is required for all containers and aboveground tanks at transfer, processing, re-refining, and burning facilities. At generator facilities, secondary containment is required for aboveground tanks whose capacity is 10,000 gallons or greater and for smaller tanks if it can be reasonably expected that any leakage from the tank could contaminate the waters of New York State. Even when not required, secondary containment at generator sites is strongly recommended.

Transportation Requirements

Transporters must comply with the standards of Section 374-2.5 (link leaves DEC's website). In addition, transporters must also comply with the following:

  • Any person transporting more than 2,000 pounds of used oil (approximately four 55-gallon drums or 220 gallons) must obtain a Part 364 (link leaves DEC's website) waste transporter permit from this Department and comply with those standards. See DEC's Waste Transporters webpage for more details.
  • Transporters are also subject to federal Department of Transportation standards in 49 CFR 171 through 180 (link leaves DEC's website).

Other Applicable Requirements

  • Used oil facilities requiring Solid Waste Management Facility permitting or registration are also subject to Part 360 (link leaves DEC's website).
  • In addition to the requirements of Section 374-2.7, burning used oil for energy recovery is subject to Part 201 and Subpart 225-2 of the Air regulations and may require permitting under that program (links leave DEC's website).
  • Spillage of used oil is subject to the notification and clean-up standards of Article 12 of the Navigation Law (link leaves DEC's website).

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