Oil Absorbent Recycling: How to Start a Program at your Facility
Wondering if you can recycle your used oil absorbents? Not sure how to get started?
In this article, we’ll explore end-of-life options for your used oil absorbents and their impact on the environment.
We’ll also explain how some of the world’s top manufacturers reuse their oil absorbents to support corporate sustainability objectives.
Let’s get started.
Oil Absorbent Disposal Options
As more companies pursue sustainability, ISO 14001, and zero-landfill objectives, sending oil absorbents to landfill is no longer a viable option.
An alternative to landfill disposal is incineration. Incineration means to destroy the waste in a furnace by controlled burning at high temperatures.
Unfortunately, while incineration is environmentally-preferred over landfill, the smoke from the chimneys creates harmful emissions. These emissions include nitrogen oxide, particulates, heavy metals, acid gasses, and the carcinogen dioxin.
For more information, read The Ultimate Guide: How to Dispose of Used Rags and Oil Absorbents.
Reusing absorbents is the preferred method for environmentally-conscious companies. Reuse offers several key benefits over single-use pig mats and pads:
- Waste oils are captured and recycled to reduce environmental impact.
- Supports sustainability, waste reduction, and ISO 14001 initiatives
- Can reduce costs by eliminating waste hauling or incineration fees
- Reusable mats and pads are more durable and absorbent, which supports housekeeping and safety.
Recycling vs. Reuse
While often used interchangeably, there is a difference between a recycled and reusable oil absorbent.
- Recycling means turning an item into raw materials that can be used again, usually for a completely new product. While recycled absorbents on the market are fully or partially constructed of recycled material, such as old rags, they may still end up in a landfill.
- Reuse, in contrast, refers to using an object as it is without breaking it down. Reuse is preferred over recycling because it consumes less energy. Reuse, unlike recycling, offers a closed-loop process.
If you can recycle your used oil absorbent into something else – that is excellent! However, most companies opt for a reuse program where the absorbent is used for the same purpose over and over again.
The remainder of this article will focus on the latter.
How to Reuse Your Oil Absorbents
To reuse oil absorbents, you will need to remove the spent oil from the absorbent. This can be done one of two ways:
- Mechanically wringing the absorbents
- Laundering the absorbents
For mechanical wringing, you can purchase special equipment to complete this process. You will need special, durable absorbents that can handle the wringing process while maintaining product integrity. Keep in mind you will need to dedicate time and space in your facility to house the equipment and air dry the absorbents. If the absorbents are put in storage before completely dry, they could become moldy.
For laundering, you will want to outsource this process to an industrial laundry that is properly set up to handle oil-laden material. Laundering of such material also requires special EPA permitting. The advantage is that it does not require any additional resources of time or space in your facility.
With a laundering service, the industrial laundry will provide special absorbents that can withstand laundering. Similar to a towel rental service, your soiled absorbents get picked up, laundered, and returned to you for reuse.
Reuse Case Study: Bosch
Jamie Fox, a member of the Bosch Zero Waste to Landfill initiative and Safety committee, started using SorbIts® reusable oil absorbents because he was looking for a safer, sustainable alternative to disposable oil absorbents at his facility. He partnered with ITU AbsorbTech, an industrial laundry service company, to launder the absorbents and recycle the recovered oil.
Fox not only improved safety at the plant, but his company also eliminated over 1,400 lbs of oil absorbent waste from landfill in just one year by displacing disposable absorbents with a reuse solution.
Matt Kersznowski (left) and Nick Falgiano (right) present a waste reduction certificate to Manfred Hahn and Jamie Fox from Bosch.
“This initiative is exciting because it supports the Bosch values of safety and sustainability while reducing costs,” says Fox. “Products are launderable, reusable, and not introduced back into the waste stream.”
According to Bosh, the reusable oil absorbent program offers several key benefits over single-use pig mats and pads. First, the absorbents are laundered for reuse and not introduced back into the waste stream. Second, the waste oil is recycled to reduce environmental impact. Third, the company has saved money by eliminating waste hauling fees. And finally, the absorbents are more absorbent and durable, which supports a cleaner, safer work environment.