Beginning this week Fairfax County residents who already save bottles, cans and newspapers for recycling can add used motor oil to the list.
Motorists who change the oil in their cars can take the old oil to one of more than 300 participating service stations and auto supply dealers in the county rather than throw it away, which can be hazardous to the environment.
Oil will be accepted in clean plastic jugs or other containers and will be held in underground storage tanks until the stations and dealers sell it for six cents a gallon to Atlantic Petroleum Services of Savage, Md. Used oil generally is rerefined and sold to bus and cab companies, railroads and industry.
The oil recycling program was developed at a cost of $300 by the county's Office of Consumer Affairs in cooperation with the Northern Virginia Gasoline Retailers Association and major oil companies.
Mark I. Croke of the consumer affairs office said the reason for the program is concern about the disposal of the more than 195,000 gallons of waste oil generated annually in the county.
"A lot of people put used oil in a jug and throw it in the trash. But that can still leach out into the soil and work is way into the water system," Croke said. Some people dump oil on vacant land or down storm sewers, although that is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine, he noted, saying that even small quantities of oil can cause taste and odor problems in drinking water.
Posters, pamphlets and decals advertising the program are expected to appear in most service stations, libraries and several retail drug store chains in the county by the end of the week.
Croke said he hopes the recycling program will prove educational as well as economical and beneficial to the environment. "Used oil is good," he said, but "image has been a real problem. Federal regulations say it must be labeled as used, and people think, 'Hey, I don't want to put used oil in my car.'
"Used oil is a valuable, renewable source which can be rerefined into almost virgin quality," he said.
The approximately 45 independent service stations and "gas and go" retailers in the county are not part of the program, Croke said, because they lack adequate storage facilities.