In developing a hazardous waste regulatory program to facilitate and encourage recycling, Congress felt that certain commonly recycled materials warranted a regulatory program of their own. As a result, Congress and U.S. EPA created special management standards for used oil. Under these standards, recycled used oil is not subject to the hazardous waste regulatory program applicable to other recycled materials, but rather to its own management provisions.

Used oil has certain unique properties that make it distinct from most hazardous wastestreams. First of all, used oil is generated by a wide range of entities, including, but not limited to, large manufacturing facilities, industrial operations, service stations, quick-lube shops, and even households. Every year privately owned automobile and light trucks generate over 300 million gallons of used crank case oil. Second, used oil is an easily recyclable material. For example, just 1 gallon of used oil provides the same 2.5 quarts of lubricating oil as 42 gallons of crude oil. However, even used oil that does not exhibit any characteristics of hazardous waste can have harmful effects if spilled or released into the environment.

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