Household hazardous waste drop-off - wouldn't take oil-soaked paper towels

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I was collecting a bunch of stuff over the years mostly from working on my cars. Motor oil is easy - just a local place with DIY pouring of used oil into a drum. Used containers can be recycled even with oil residue, or that's what an employee there told me. However, I was trying to unload a bunch of stuff including old fluorescent tubes (most hardware stores or Ikea won't take tubes), a bit of used coolant, and those oily paper towels and Chux (someone gave me a couple dozen medical pads) that I used when changing oil. My county's household hazardous waste drop-off center is contracted out to a private company. The employee told me they couldn't take those oily rags and I could legally dispose of them in the trash. Also that I could toss the used oil containers in the trash. In previous visits they actually took them. Not sure if it's new policy or what. Maybe the employees have a different take. I did have this collection container I got there years ago that I forgot had used oil. Not sure what happened, but the top was cracked but the oil didn't spill as I kept it upright. It also came in a large Ziploc style bag which kept a bit of the leaking oil. They took the whole thing. Also less than a gallon of used coolant in an old gallon bottled water jug - the kind with a non-screw top cap. I feel kind of bad about dumping oily rags in the trash, but they told me it's OK. I've disposed of paper towels after I checked a dipstick.
 
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Only food containers or soap containers can be recycled. No oil containers or any container that had oil. They go in the trash. These days best to just recycle the water & juice plastic containers. Rest in trash. Expect dual stream recycling soon.
 
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Bury towels in the ground. The big worry is too much oil at once leeching into the water system but in the ground, it will dissipate at a low enough rate that microbes eat it and the heavy metals... well they were mined out of the ground in the first place, and also oxidize down. Oh wait you live in CA. You will have to keep them forever or call in a hazmat team for disposal. wink
 
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Kestas

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If you really feel bad about it, see if you can incinerate them. The air has a much better chance of rejuvenating itself than a landfill.
 

y_p_w

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Originally Posted by Kestas
If you really feel bad about it, see if you can incinerate them. The air has a much better chance of rejuvenating itself than a landfill.
I've seen our local (former) landfills. One such site is the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View. When it first opened they had problems with methane leaching out at the upper lawn area. I guess smoking was allowed back then (not that the no-smoking policy is heavily enforced today) and a lot of people would see it flare up after striking a match or a lighter.
 
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Here's ours. Not sure how they handle the containers. My oil soaked paper towels go in the trash.

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I think most of the trash in municipalities ends up going into the landfill and then get covered/capped instead of being burned. An oil soaked towel or paper towel with all of the oil wringed out, should be no problem in a landfill because any residual oil is going to be on the towel and only a little will drain out of it over time due to the capillary action. As long as the towel isn't oversaturated, the small amount of oil that soaks a wide surface should stay relatively put. The worry is for when people start dumping large quantities of free oil (oil that isn't actually absorbed into a material) into the landfill, where after compaction large amounts of free moving oil might end up migrating around, or destroying the plastic lining for the landfill and leeching into the surrounding earth. The other point of recycling oil is to reclaim it for use (hence recycling). It's not reasonable to expect you can get all of the oil out of a towel/paper towel so it goes in the trash, even if you could you'd only get a small amount out of it, not enough to justify.
 
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I ran into this as well, I was told to wrap oil filters and oily rags in a shopping bag and dispose "in the municipal waste stream." I do my part by cutting filter cans and leaving them drain for a week before throwing them, along with Toyota filter elements, and upside down mostly empty oil and ATF containers. Once it goes into my trash, the amount of oil residue is very small. I built a little wooden drain stand, using a huge funnel mounted on a T-Track against an upright 2x4, so I can adjust and lock in the height. At the bottom is a clear plastic tub and inside that I put a 4-5L jug or Hopkins FloTool 11849 3 gallon recycling oil jug. I got 3 of the recycling jugs for $4.42 each off Amazon back in 2014. Must have been a pricing mistake, as they haven't been that cheap since.
 
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Trash for sure. Regarding to recycling these days, without China picking and sorting them we are better safe than sorry. Our municipal specifically tell us not to recycle the "dirty dozen" because they are contaminants, and if more than 0.5% of the contents are contaminated the buyer reject the whole batch. Things like: black plastic, paper or plastic cups, egg cartons including paper type, clam shell (i.e. strawberry boxes), refrigerated food paper containers (because they are lined with plastic), glassware, etc. https://sunnyvale.ca.gov/property/recycling/getrid/dirty.htm
 
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Originally Posted by HangFire
I ran into this as well, I was told to wrap oil filters and oily rags in a shopping bag and dispose "in the municipal waste stream." I do my part by cutting filter cans and leaving them drain for a week before throwing them, along with Toyota filter elements, and upside down mostly empty oil and ATF containers. Once it goes into my trash, the amount of oil residue is very small. I built a little wooden drain stand, using a huge funnel mounted on a T-Track against an upright 2x4, so I can adjust and lock in the height. At the bottom is a clear plastic tub and inside that I put a 4-5L jug or Hopkins FloTool 11849 3 gallon recycling oil jug. I got 3 of the recycling jugs for $4.42 each off Amazon back in 2014. Must have been a pricing mistake, as they haven't been that cheap since.
I cut the filters open too, to drain every last drop of oil out, then clean them of oil residue and have the metal recycled. The filter media sits to drain, then goes into the trash with all of the rubber parts of the filter.
 

y_p_w

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Originally Posted by HangFire
I ran into this as well, I was told to wrap oil filters and oily rags in a shopping bag and dispose "in the municipal waste stream." I do my part by cutting filter cans and leaving them drain for a week before throwing them, along with Toyota filter elements, and upside down mostly empty oil and ATF containers. Once it goes into my trash, the amount of oil residue is very small. I built a little wooden drain stand, using a huge funnel mounted on a T-Track against an upright 2x4, so I can adjust and lock in the height. At the bottom is a clear plastic tub and inside that I put a 4-5L jug or Hopkins FloTool 11849 3 gallon recycling oil jug. I got 3 of the recycling jugs for $4.42 each off Amazon back in 2014. Must have been a pricing mistake, as they haven't been that cheap since.
My local recycling center has a can that accepts used filters, so I don't worry too much about those. And if I wanted to get the hazardous waste place to accept all the used oil bottles, I could probably just pour a little bit of used oil in each bottle, since their policy for liquids is to take everything - container and all.
 
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I thought SF burns their trash and generates electricity like here on Oahu. Our city tells us to absorb the used motor oil with absorbent material (shredded paper, rags, sawdust, cat litter) or buy oil change boxes that's made of the shredded stuff and toss 'em in the trash. Same for filters.
 
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Most garbage could be burned. With proper pollution controls the impact is tiny. The heat produced from the incinerator can Power a turbine to provide electricity. Unfortunately NIMBYs do not accept any solutions like this so landfills get bigger and fuller.
 
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