January 17, 2005

Safety-Kleen begins used oil recovery program in Quebec as alternative to SOGHU

Safety-Kleen Canada has launched a used oil recovery program dedicated solely to recycling used motor and lubricating oils it collects in Quebec, rather than burning these used oils for energy recovery. In addition, the company has filed a legal challenge to a program advocated by the SociÈtÈ de Gestion des Huiles UsagÈes (SOGHU), a group of large lubricating oil brand owners, under accreditation by Recyc-QuÈbec, the provincial government recycling agency. Those companies produce lubricating oil from virgin crude oil imported from the Middle East, South America and Western Canada.

Safety-Kleen is positioning its used oil program as an environmentally-friendly alternative to SOGHU's program, which is intended to facilitate compliance with a provincial regulation mandating recovery and reclamation of used oils and related materials (e.g. containers and oil filters). The regulation came into effect in March 2004. The program provides for both reprocessing of used oils (envisioning the possibility of a facility in Quebec) and use of used oils as fuel. Safety-Kleen is concerned that implementation of this program will mean the company will lose its supply of used oil to those who would burn it.

"Very simply, Safety-Kleen's program guarantees the re-use and recycling of used oil, and theirs guarantees increased air pollution and increased use of imported oil," said Pierre Gendron, Safety-Kleen's Quebec market manager. "Quebec produces used oil that can be recycled back into high-quality oil, comparable in quality and performance to new oil. The SOGHU program encourages the burning of used oil as a one-time fuel, and that oil then has to be replaced. The choice for consumers and the environment is clear: re-use and recycling, or pollution and continued dependence on imported oil."

Under the company's program, any Safety-Kleen Performance Plus lubricating oil customer that designates Safety-Kleen as its collector for used oil and used oil containers will not be charged any environmental charges, fees or levies on its purchases of oil and oil containers. Additionally, Safety-Kleen will pick up the used oil and used oil containers at no charge.

"There are no up-front fees or back-end charges," Gendron said. "In fact, customers actually save money by avoiding certain environmental surcharges and levies. Safety-Kleen's closed-loop recycling system is the only option that saves customers money and protects the environment," he stated.

Gendron noted that Safety-Kleen's legal challenge to the SOGHU program alleges that it is inconsistent with the Quebec government's waste reduction policies, which promote the re-use and recycling of resources. The company also claims that it ignores a Supreme Court of Canada ruling about environmental measures anticipating, preventing and attacking causes of environmental degradation.

Under the program proposed by SOGHU consumers would be charged an additional five cents on every litre of lubricating oil purchased and another five cents for every litre of container size on a four-litre jug of oil. Aerosol containers and oil filters would also be subjected to fees ranging from 25 cents to $1.00. A portion of the money raised by these environmental charges would be paid to SOGHU-approved collectors, who would collect the used oil, but then ship it off to be burned as a fuel in facilities such as asphalt plants, greenhouses and cement kilns.

"It is wrong to charge customers an "environmental tax," then use that money to promote environmental degradation," Gendron said. "We believe that over 80% of the used oil produced in Quebec is currently being recovered, exceeding the target collection rate of the SOGHU program. It makes no sense whatsoever, in this market, to make consumers fund a program that promotes the burning of a valuable resource it's against their financial and environmental interest."

Recyc-QuÈbec figures indicate that of the 49 million litres of used oil recovered in Quebec in 2001, approximately 15 million litres were shipped to Ontario for reclamation and reprocessing, while 34 million litres were used as fuel in Quebec facilities. SOGHU recently joined four other regional used oil materials recycling groups to form an advisory council for promoting consistent standards for recycling programs across Canada (ELW December 6-13, 2004).

In 2004, Safety-Kleen's Breslau, Ontario, plant re-refined approximately 152 million litres of used lubricating oil collected from thousands of generators across Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and the northeastern United States. The firm's customer base includes major retailers, municipalities, fleets and transit authorities, as well as commercial/industrial users.

Re-refining the used oil avoided the emission of approximately two metric tonnes of lead, 19 tonnes of hydrochloric acid, 242 kilograms of chromium, 781 tonnes of particulates and greenhouse gases, and more than 300,000 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.

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