What’s your number?

This post contributed by Nadine Lymn, ESA Director of Public Affairs

Many of us still operate under the notion that, as responsible car owners, we should get our vehicle’s oil changed every 3,000 miles to keep our engines running smoothly.  But it turns out that this engrained wisdom is not true if you own a vehicle that is about ten years old or younger.  Newer car models have cleaner-running engines and usually only need oil changes every 5,000 to 10,000 miles.

In addition to saving money and time, the main reason this is important is because of how much oil is unnecessarily wasted and also contributes to water pollution by people who incorrectly dispose of oil  filters.

An article in February’s Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment by Robin Meadows reports on this topic and on a recent survey administered by California’s Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle).  The survey revealed that about half of all non-commercial drivers in the Golden State change their motor oil much too frequently.

And while most of us are responsible—according to the article, 80 percent of used motor oil is recycled in the U.S.—the remaining 20 percent is not disposed of properly, ending up contaminating water.  According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 40 percent of the pollution in U.S. streams, rivers, and lakes is from motor oil.

The CalRecycle survey also showed that many of us don’t bother looking up the recommended oil change frequency in our car manuals.  To raise awareness and encourage better practices, CalRecycle has started a campaign called Check Your Number.  As described in the Frontiers article: “Related kick-off events entailed giving free parking spots in crowded venues to drivers who check their owner’s manuals and display the recommended oil-change intervals on their windshields.”

CalRecycle hopes to next focus on do-it-yourselfers who don’t properly dispose of oil filters.

Photo credit: CalRecycle

Author: Nadine Lymn

ESA Director of Public Affairs

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