How to safely dispose of used oil and universal waste (NHES guidelines)

Learn how to properly dispose of used oil and universal waste to protect yourself, coworkers, employees, family members and environment from harm.

Used Oil

Used oil is defined as “any oil that has been refined from crude oil and any synthetic oil that, through use or handling, has become unsuitable for its original purpose due to the presence of physical or chemical impurities or loss of original properties.”

Once oil is used, is categorized as a regulated waste. There are a few different options for disposing of used oil, which include burning in a used-oil furnace, taking it to an authorized recycler or hiring a registered hazardous waste transporter for recycling.

The removal of used oil from a vehicle and subsequent storing of it should occur over an impervious surface. Used oil should never be put in a dented, cracked, rusty, unlabeled drum or tank.

All spills must be cleaned up immediately to prevent hazards.

Preventing Spills

Use a funnel when transferring used oil to a storage container. If spills cannot be avoided, place the container on a drip pan to collect the spilled oil. All used oil tanks and containers must be labeled “Used Oil for Recycle”. Used oil that is mixed with gasoline, solvents, antifreeze and gas additives cannot be burned legally; it must be managed as hazardous waste. Used engine oil may be mixed with other types of uncontaminated oil and lubricants such as, transmission fluid, differential oil, brake fluid, power-steering fluid and transaxle fluid.

Once the transferring of used oil from one container to tanks or drums is completed, all caps and covers must be tightly sealed. A spill kit should be present at used-oil storage area and should include a bucket, absorbent material (Speedy Dry, Kitty Litter), a scoop or shovel and personal protective equipment.

Used oil filters that are fully drained are not classified as a hazardous waste and can be sent to a scrap metal recycler along with other scrap metal in your facility if the hauler or facility allows it. Used oil filters must be punctured and drained over a drip rack or drip table at room temperature or warmer for 12 hours, or use a filter crusher, which is the best way to fully drain the filter.

Storage tank requirements

If your storage tank is above ground and holds more than 660 gallons of petroleum, or if you have multiple containers that collectively hold more than 1,320 gallons of petroleum product, you must be registered with the NH Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) as an Above-ground Storage Tank (AST) and meet AST standards. Underground Storage Tanks (UST), and partially underground storage tanks, must be registered with the NHDES and meet rigorous UST standards. If storage tanks are outside, they must be protected from outdoor elements such as rain and debris among other things. All used oil collection containers shall be secured in a secondary containment structure that is leak proof and can hold at least 110 percent of the volume of the largest container and must have a roof.

Universal Waste

Universal wastes are products that contain hazardous material that could potentially harm workers and damage the environment, such as antifreeze, rechargeable batteries, cathode ray tubes, lamps, mercury containing devices, and pesticides.

Waste material handling and procedures:

  • Properly manage the waste through labeling and storage.
  • Place the label facing towards you on the container.
  • Make sure the containers are closed and in good condition.
  • Do not mix materials together.
  • Make sure to write down the accumulation start date.
  • Keep track of the universal waste inventory.
  • Protect waste from outside elements.
  • Do not exceed the one-year storage time limit.

Handling used batteries:

  • Waste battery containers must be labeled: “Used Batteries,” “Waste Batteries,” or “Universal Waste-Batteries”.
  • Used batteries should be managed in a container that will not allow them or their contents to enter the environment.
  • Batteries should be stored away from sources of sparks or flames.
  • Containers should be labeled with the earliest date that any waste was added to the container.
  • Battery containers should not be tightly sealed (to avoid hydrogen gas build-up).
  • The casing of each battery should be kept intact and closed; leaking batteries should be separately stored.
  • An inventory of all universal wastes and their accumulation start date should be kept on-site.
  • Waste batteries stored outside must be covered to prevent contact with precipitation.

For questions regarding this or any environmental-related waste contact Dustin Howe at, Dan Bennett at or your NHADA WCT Loss Prevention representative at 800-852-3372.