Opportunities for Improved Oil Recycling Still Exist

PLRD-82-113: Published: Sep 17, 1982. Publicly Released: Sep 17, 1982.

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Martin M. Ferber
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In response to a previous GAO recommendation, the Department of Defense (DOD) established an oil recycling and reuse policy and guidance for the military departments and defense agencies on the collection and disposition of used oils. GAO performed a follow-up review of how DOD activities collect and dispose of used oil.

Many DOD installations and activities are not following the DOD guidance. GAO found that collection and selling practices tended to mitigate against re-refining used oil, and some activities were selling used oil when they could have burned it more economically as fuel. While the services have adopted and incorporated the DOD policy into their own regulations, their failure to aggressively implement this policy and guidance has resulted in the loss of numerous opportunities to achieve better conservation and economic use of lubricating products. By improving their collection and disposal practices, DOD activities can make their used oil more suitable for re-refining and also enhance the product's market value. This can be done by: (1) collecting used oil in ways that segregate recoverable products, such as automotive and jet turbine oils, by type and keeping them clean; (2) storing oils in bulk containers to reduce storage and handling costs; and (3) collectively disposing of used oils from installations in the same geographic area to enable DOD to offer large quantities of used oil which would make re-refining more feasible and reduce disposal costs. GAO believes that DOD activities should cease the practice of selling used oil when it can be burned more economically as fuel. It also believes that the closed-loop re-refining arrangement has excellent potential for economically improving the use of used oil at large installations.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretaries of the Army, Navy, and Air Force to follow the DOD guidance in the collection and disposal of used oil. The Secretary should also direct a trial of the closed-loop arrangement for re-refining used oil generated at a large user installation or several installations in close proximity to one another. If this trial shows this arrangement to be a beneficial way of utilizing used oil, it should be extended to as many locations as is feasible.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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