Oil Change

Don’t let used oil pollute water and soil

oil image.jpg

With farms covering extensive areas of South Africa, this sector has the largest impact on our natural habitat. It is estimated that South Africa generates an average of 120 million litres of used lubricant oil in a year with about 10 million litres of this being generated by the Agricultural sector.

Commercial farming relies heavily on technology and mechanisation. On average, a tractor can hold anywhere between 40 and 100 litres of oil and the average medium commercial farm can have anywhere between three and ten tractors. Considering that one litre of used oil has the capacity to contaminate one million litres of water, this is a potentially devastating amount of used oil that, if not collected and recycled responsibly, could make its way into our environment.

Used motor oil contains numerous toxic substances, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which are known to cause cancer. In addition, tiny pieces of metal from engine wear and tear, such as lead, zinc and arsenic, make their way into lubricants, further contributing to the polluting potential of used motor oil. Motor oil is exposed to heat and oxygen during engine combustion, which changes its chemical make-up. Because spent motor oil is heavy and sticky, and contains an extensive concentrated cocktail of toxic compounds, it can build up and persist in the environment for years.

Once motor oil escapes the engine it has the potential to travel long distances, and most used motor oil eventually makes its way into waterways in the form of run-off. Once it reaches waterways used motor oil is toxic to the plants and animals living in the water, and the oily film created on the surface of the water can impair natural processes, such as oxygen replenishment and photosynthesis. Used motor oil can also pollute soil and drinking water.

Preserving biodiversity

With the frequent droughts that we are experiencing, caring for our water resources has become a massive national priority. The protection of visible water sources is as important as protecting underground water, especially because farmers regularly use boreholes to tap into underground water.

The farming community is known for its creativity and survival skills, hence the saying ‘n boer maak n plan. Unfortunately, in many farming communities in South Africa, cost cutting methods and traditional practises that have been carried out on farms for generations are often not environmentally friendly and sustainable. Practices include spraying used lubricant oil on the ground in order to limit dust damage to crops and also using the old oil on fence posts as a preservative, as well as rubbing it onto livestock as a parasite deterrent. Conversion to more sustainable agricultural practice is necessary both to preserve South Africa’s biodiversity and to ensure a future resource base.

Many farmers do their own oil changes and minor services when their vehicles are out of the maintenance plan and manufacturer’s warranty. The ROSE Foundation encourage these farmers to gather and store their oil in containers which can easily be transported to the nearest town and dropped off at a vehicle service workshop.

Alternatively, there are some ROSE Foundation registered collectors who operate in the rural areas and will come and remove this oil for the farmers in an environmentally compliant and safe manner.

We are comforted by the knowledge that farmers would never knowingly damage the environment. That is why it is important for us to reach out and create awareness about the potential harmful effects of used oil on the environment. 

The ROSE Foundation is an organisation that has been championing the responsible management of used oil in South Africa for many years.

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