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Motor repairers respond positively to used oil management

The independent motor repairers industry is responding positively to efforts to manage used oil, says Chairman of the Motor Workshop Industry Association (MIWA), Dewald Ranft. MIWA is a proud member of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI).

“Workshops are starting to understand the effects that disposing of used oil in an irresponsible way are having on our environment and are implementing changes,” he says.

Used oil is classified as a hazardous substance because of all of the harmful chemicals and metals that contaminate it through use. A release of used oil into the environment, whether by accident or otherwise, threatens ground and surface waters with oil contamination endangering the drinking water supply and aquatic organisms.

The Rose Foundation, a national non-profit organisation established to promote and encourage the environmentally responsible management of used oils and related waste in South Africa, reports that if oil is thrown down a drain or onto the ground, it can seep into groundwater systems. It states that one litre of used oil can contaminate a million litres of water. If unprocessed used oil is burnt in furnaces, harmful toxic compounds are emitted into the atmosphere damaging and polluting the air. For this reason, it is illegal to dump used oil or to burn it without processing it first.

The law requires the responsible storage, collection and recycling of used oil within the strict compliance requirements of the Waste Act.

“We have been promoting the responsible and legal way to dispose of used oil with our members through the introduction of affordable oil/water separators (or grease traps) and it has been well received,” says Ranft.

Grease traps are used where industrial drains are subject to the collection of motor oil, transmission fluids, hydraulic oils and grease. They are available in two or three compartment configurations and vary in size and material composition. Grease traps are plumbing devices and the purpose is to contain oils and greases in the interior compartments of the trap.

A company based in Port Elizabeth has developed a grease trap made for business owners not washing cars and engines. It is suitable for workshops where there is only the washing of floors with a bucket system and where parts are cleaned with either water or air. The system is affordable, only R3,500 excluding VAT and courier cost, and used above ground as many property owners do not always want a tenant to install underground systems,” he explains.

At this point there have been meetings held with municipalities in Port Elizabeth, Uitenhage and George and the grease traps manufactured specifically for workshops have been approved. “The grease trap will be able to assist workshops reduce the possibility of oils and greases being released into the waste stream.”

He adds that what workshops need to understand is that the local municipality will do regular checks to test the workshop’s waste stream water quality. “If they find any oils that contaminated the waste stream, the workshop owner will be held liable.”

Ranft believes that besides the legal aspect it is important that all used oil from the workshop industry is collected and responsibly recycled.

“At this point we are looking into ways to assist members in other regions with their oil/water separating systems. As a part of our mandate, we believe it is important that our members are making as little negative impact on the environment as possible and will continuously look for ways to ensure this happens,” concludes Ranft.