It may seem odd that a guy trying to green his life would like motor oil, but if you drive a car and it is not driven purely by electrons the time will come when you have to change the oil. If you are like me and drive about 5,000 miles a year these oil changes come about once a year. Even at this extremely reduced amount of maintenance I always wondered about what happened to the oil that was drained from my engine. Where did it go? What became of it once it reached that destination? And so on and so forth…
All kinds of places apparently. In some locations, the oil was filtered to get some of the nasty bits out and burnt in combination with fuel oil to provide heat. For those of us who live in the Midwest and are accustomed to natural gas providing the heat the entire concept of fuel oil heat is foreign. The great majority was sent to recyclers who reprocess the oil into a myriad of products. How much oil you ask? More than 750 million gallons per year. That is a lot of oil being used once and then sent on its merry way.
Recently, Valvoline announced NextGen which is a motor oil comprised of 50% recycled content. Technically, the motor oil should have the same protective properties of its convetional non-recycled bretheren. The advertising copy basically reads that oil is not “used up” when it is changed at regular intervals, it is the non-oil content of motor oil that is degraded. Therefore, the oil component of motor oil–about 85% according to Valvoline–can be recycled and reused as a component of motor oil again. This is not downcycling like so many products that contain recycled content, this is truly recycling a product into its former self with no apparent loss of capability.
If there is no difference in performance why aren’t all motor oils comprised of some recycled content? Why isn’t everything this way?
Note: Through September 2011, Valvoline is offering a $7 rebate for the regular NextGen and a $10 rebate for the NextGen MaxLife products. You qualify for the rebate if you get your oil changed at a service center as long as the rebate calls our the NextGen product. So, for $30–after rebate–my car’s oil was changed and 50% of it was recycled. I call that progress.