How to turn used oil into trees

Ever wonder where trees come from? In El Nido Resorts, trees come from used oil! No really. They do! El Nido Resorts donated 31,840 liters of used cooking oil and used engine oil to ABS-CBN Bantay Kalikasan last February 9-10, 2012. By donating our used oil, we’re able to fund environmental conservation projects, including the reforestation of the La Mesa Dam watershed area. The hauling was done in El Nido Airport in the presence of the ENR Engineering and Environment teams, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Bantay Kalikasan, and Genetron International Marketing (Bantay Kalikasan’s accredited treater and transporter of used industrial oil). ENR’s used oil will be recycled and sold by Genetron, with the net proceeds donated to Bantay Kalikasan. We’ll know the final monetary value of the used oil by August 2012.

The 20-liter plastic jugs for used cooking oil

Oil is necessary to keep engines, generators, and other machinery running smoothly but improper oil disposal pollutes the environment and endangers plants, animals, and people alike. Oil spilled on the ground kills soil bacteria and other small animals like worms that serve as the base of food chain. The oil can also seep into the ground and contaminate water supplies. It can also get washed out into the sea, where it can block sunlight and air from entering the water, killing plants and animals.

Because oil doesn’t wear out – it just gets dirty – it can be cleaned and re-refined and used over and over again. Did you know that it takes 42 gallons of crude oil but only 1 gallon of used oil to make 2.5 quarts of high-quality lubricating oil? Recycling used oil involves removing the water, insolubles, dirt, heavy metals, nitrogen, chlorine, and oxygenated products that the oil picked up while working in the machinery. The resulting re-refined oil can be made into lubricants and fuel oils that are equivalent to virgin oil. Recycling used oil involves:

  • Pre-treatment/dewatering – removes the water from the oil by letting the water settle to the bottom of a holding tank (the oil may be boiled and stirred to speed up the process); the product may be used as burner fuel
  • Filtering and demineralization – removes solids, inorganic materials; the product is a cleaner burner fuel or feed oil that can be further refined
  • Propane de-asphalting – removes heavy bitumenous fractions; the product is a re-refined base oil
  • Distillation – separates the components of the base oil according to boiling range; the products may be used as lubricant, hydraulic oil, or transformer oil

More information on the recycling process may be found here.

Hauling the used oil definitely involved some preparation. We wrote over 1,000 hazardous waste sticker labels for the containers. The Engineering and Environment guys were in the airport by 7 am to clean and inspect the containers to be used for the hauling. The hauling was also scheduled at night to avoid disrupting the airport’s operations.

Sticking over 1,000 sticker labels to the plastic jugs. It was hard work!

Two types of containers were used in the hauling. The 20-liter plastic jugs contained the used cooking oil, while the 200-liter steel drums had the used engine oil. Each container was tagged as “hazardous waste” and labeled with the contents, characteristics of the waste, amount, packaging and shipping dates, and the company involved. The team spent all night loading 990 plastic containers and 60 steel drums onto the two trucks, with people stealing catnaps every two hours or so (except for Resort Engineer Mervin Velasco, who was the boss of the whole thing). Kring and I took turns documenting the event. Never underestimate the restorative powers of coffee and crackers. We finally finished loading the second truck at 6 am, just in time to see the sun rise and the fruits of our labor.

Loading the second truck

It was an exhausting night that turned into an exhausting morning but it was worth it. Recycling used oil is something that can be done by anyone. If you do your own oil changes for your car and other motorized equipment, don’t pour the used oil down the drain. Pour it into a leak-proof plastic jug instead and bring it to a registered treatment/storage/disposal (TSD) facility for hazardous wastes. If your household and/or business has enough used oil, the TSD facility may even pick it up from you. It’s only by working together that we can prevent oil pollution and keep our environment and ourselves healthy for years to come.

The dedicated Engineering team after it was all over. (Resort Engineer Mervin Velasco on the right-most)


Read all articles by Macy Anonuevo.

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