A single drop of oil makes a big impact

Student Ambassadors promote used oil recycling

Students Tiffany Rennick, 20, and Amara Janssens, 20, have no ordinary summer jobs. They act as ambassadors for the British Columbia Used Oil Management Association (BCUOMA) helping to promote used oil and anti-freeze recycling throughout the province.

This summer they visited over 500 different recycling locations in over 120 municipalities around B.C. spanning from Vancouver to Fort St. John and Tofino to Golden.

The program also took them to Agassiz and Hope.

“A lot of rural communities feel left out,” Rennick said. “They appreciate that we come out and see them.”

Much of the oil collected in the area comes from rural businesspeople performing their own oil changes Rennick said.

Farmers for example may drop-off their used oil at certified BCUOMA collectors such as Modern Tire and OK Tire in Agassiz and Gardner Chevrolet in Hope.

“It’s either in a ditch or recycled,” Modern Tire owner Fred Major said.

According to the BCUOMA, used oil collected through the program is re-refined into new lubricating oil and processed for use in pulp mills, cement plants and in asphalt plants. Oil filters are crushed and taken to a steel mill to manufacture reinforcing steel, while plastic oil and antifreeze containers are recycled into new oil containers, drainage tiles and parking curbs.

To help get that recycled oil, the BCUOMA pays each collector a fee. The fee comes out of stewardship acts in B.C. and Environmental Handling Charges (EHC) on oil and anti-freeze containers. EHCs are assessed on new oil ($.05/litre), oil containers ($.10/litre of container) and oil filters less than eight inches long ($.55) and eight inches or longer ($1.25) at the first point of sale or distribution in BC. EHC’s on anti-freeze are just slightly higher than oil and oil containers.

As part of their jobs, Rennick and Janssens look at the effectiveness of each collector by measuring how many containers they take in, what it is they predominantly collect and where the material comes from. They also measure what sort of demand the community is placing on collectors.

“The biggest thing we look at is night drop-offs,” Rennick said. After-hours oil and anti-freeze drop-offs can lead to unsafe spillage onto city streets and sidewalks and into drains, streams, rivers and ecosystems.

The ambassadors’ goal is to encourage communities to help keep hazardous materials out of waterways and landfills.

Better awareness of the hazards of oil and anti-freeze on the environment may require more stringent collection policies placed on collectors or the introduction of security measures such as surveillance cameras and customer log books. In other cases, collector certification can be revoked and another suitable collector found or an additional collector added to the list if demand warrants it.

Major said he collects 200-500 litres of oil per month.

This is the program’s sixth year. Two new co-op students are chosen each year to participate as ambassadors during the May to September season.

Vancouver resident Rennick’s a University of British Columbia marketing major and Langleyite Janssens is studying communications at Simon Fraser University. The ambassadorship’s provided each of them with extensive work experience and helped them gain valuable environmental sustainability knowledge via their involvement with the BCUOMA.