Oil filters have been around since the very early days of automobile travel. The primary role, of course, is to clean oil from potentially damaging contaminants within the engine. Ernest Sweetland is credited with inventing the oil filter in 1922, according to an article in Machinery Lubrication. The spin-on filter style became the industry standard by the early 1970’s.
Changing engine oil means changing the filter, so that any solid contaminants in the old oil don’t get into the fresh oil. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency keeps an eye on disposing of items like used oil filters, with its Office of Compliance offering a Fact Sheet on what to do. Oil filter crushers play a key role in these best practices.
Used oil filters are not considered hazardous waste under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) if they have been properly drained of used oil. Terre-plated oil filters were also considered hazardous because its tin/lead composition, but those have been mostly out of production since the late 1990s.
The EPA says used oil filters must be punctured and hot-drained, which means at or near engine operating temperature. Of the four hot-draining options listed in the fact sheet, oil filter crushers deliver advantages for speed and efficiency. BJE offers a variety of pneumatic and hydraulic oil filter crushers, which will remove 95 percent of the free-flowing oil from the filter, and reduce the filter to 75 percent of its original size. Cycle times can be as little as five seconds. Here’s a quick video demonstration of the BJE C-4 Pneumatic oil filter crusher.
Since a properly drained filter is not considered hazardous waste, the paper, steel and plastic that comprise filters can be recycled. There are many options available but Earth 911 offers a link to a recycling locator that can help begin the process.
State regulations can be more stringent than federal guidelines, so it is a good idea to check the requirements or recommendations in your specific location regarding hot draining used oil filters. One example is from the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, which has posted a Best Management Practices for Motor Vehicle Recyclers. The document sums used oil filter disposal up this way: “The best way to fully drain a filter is to use a filter crusher.”