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WATCH: Recycling used oil essential to environmental sustainability

If used oil is irresponsibly disposed of into landfills, down drains or onto the ground, it can leach into wetlands and rivers, polluting waterways and posing a threat to the environment. Picture: Skica911 Pixabay

If used oil is irresponsibly disposed of into landfills, down drains or onto the ground, it can leach into wetlands and rivers, polluting waterways and posing a threat to the environment. Picture: Skica911 Pixabay

Published Jun 22, 2022

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This year’s National Environment Month campaign calls for transformative changes to policies and procedures, which will enable cleaner, greener and more sustainable living, in harmony with nature instead of against it.

The sustainable waste management of a wider range of products is an essential component in achieving the sustainable development goals, set by the national government and guided by the United Nations SDGs.

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The South African government published the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) regulations in 2020, which implored manufacturers in the electronics, lighting, packaging, and single-use plastics industries to implement more stringent processes for dealing with both pre and post-production waste. Recently, government has also issued notices to producers within the lubricants, pesticides and battery industries to do the same.

I spoke to Mr Bubele Nyiba, CEO of the ROSE Foundation, to tell me more about how EPR is helping to protect the environment and ensure a sustainable future for South Africans.

The ROSE Foundation is an organisation responsible for the prevention of irresponsible dumping and burning of used lubricating oil. Its primary objective is to collect as much used lubricating oil as possible and to add value to this oil, while adhering to strict environmental standards.

“Our industry has been implementing EPR measures since 1994, when we took a proactive stance to mitigate the potentially harmful effects of oil on the environment, by establishing a voluntary extended producer responsibility scheme, through the establishment of the ROSE Foundation,” said Nyiba.

Used lubricating oil is classified as hazardous waste, as used oil and grease from vehicles and machinery contain three types of dangerous pollutants, polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), heavy metals, and lubrication additives.

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These hazardous pollutants are generated through the use of oil as a lubricant in motor vehicles and in industrial operations. If used oil is irresponsibly disposed of into landfills, down drains or onto the ground, it can leach into wetlands, and rivers, polluting waterways and posing a threat to the environment, marine and freshwater organisms, as well as human health.

Nyiba said that “the foundation has been successful in driving responsible recycling of used oil on behalf of the lubricants manufacturing and reselling industry. The organisation has overseen the recycling of more than 1.5 billion litres of used oil since its inception, and continues to grow its initiatives to educate the market and to increase the volume of used oil recycling.”

Used lubricating oil is classified as hazardous waste. Picture: Daniel Smyth Unsplash

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From large industries to individual backyard mechanics, generators of used oil have a legal duty to store and recycle used oil responsibly, to protect the environment in South Africa. The disposal of used oil is strictly governed by environmental laws, and its storage and disposal have to meet the requirements of the National Environmental Management Waste Act No. 59 of 2008.

Largely used oil generators are able to store used oil safely for collection, by oil collectors who are accredited by the ROSE Foundation.

Nyiba explained: “ When used oil is recycled in South Africa, it is usually partially reprocessed to remove particulates and is sold as an industrial burner fuel. In some instances, it is being re-refined back to base oil, but this is a costly process to establish, and the demand for burner fuel is still dictating the economics of recycling.”

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According to the World Health Organization, more than 3 billion people, globally, rely on dirty fuels and animal waste, for cooking and heating. Burner fuel from used oil is the second most affordable source of energy for industrial purposes, with coal being the cheapest.

“The use of used oils as burner fuel does contribute significantly to CO2 emissions, thus, the ROSE Foundation is advocating the use of scrubbers by industries that burn fuel, to mitigate carbon dioxide emissions” said Nyiba.

The US Environmental Protection Agency describes scrubbers as “air pollution control devices that use liquid to remove particulate matter or gases from an industrial exhaust or flue gas stream.

The use of scrubbers significantly reduces emissions of sulphur and nitrogen oxides, toxic stable organic chemicals, mercury and particulates.“

“The safe disposal of hazardous waste has become a critical issue that South Africa needs to manage in order to ensure adequate protection of the environment. Responsible waste management is no longer a nice thing to do – it is a necessary thing to do,” said Nyiba.

For more information about used oil recycling, the ROSE Foundation accredited collectors, processors and drop-off points, contact the ROSE Foundation at (021) 448 7492 or visit www.rosefoundation.org.za

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