Do-it-yourself auto maintenance and repair can save you time and money, but you should be careful with used motor oil, dirty oil filters, antifreeze, dead batteries and other automotive wastes. Handled or discarded improperly, they can pose serious risks to your health and environment. That's why the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) wants to help you do the right thing.

Used Motor Oil should always be recycled - never thrown in the trash, dumped on the ground, or poured into the sewer or down the drain. Used oil contains heavy metals, which can contaminate water supplies and harm eco-systems. And it doesn't take much to do a lot of damage. One gallon of used oil can pollute one million gallons of drinking water. One pint can produce an oil slick the size of a football field. After changing your own oil, remember to recycle. If there is a collection program in your community, take advantage of it. Or, take the oil back to where you bought it. Whoever sold it to you is required by Massachusetts law to take back up to two gallons of your used oil per day, without charge, provided you still have the sales receipt. Some stores and gas stations will accept your oil even if you didn't buy it from them. When blended with other fuels, used motor oil can be used to generate electricity or steam. For help in finding a collection center near you, call the MassDEP Used Oil Hotline at 617-556-1022.

Dirty Oil Filters can be tossed in the trash so long as you take the proper precautions. First, remove any remaining oil by puncturing the filter and letting it drain over a container. Then add the recovered oil to the oil you previously drained from your engine. Finally, wrap the filter carefully in a rag or paper towel and throw it away.

Antifreeze is a poison, but it can attract children, pets and wild animals because it has a sweet taste. Since there are few readily available collection centers in Massachusetts, MassDEP recommends that you have your car's radiator flushed at a service station that recycles used antifreeze. If you decide to do it yourself, drain the antifreeze into a container - being careful not to spill any on the ground - then seal the container tightly and store it out of reach until the next household hazardous waste collection day in your community.

Dead Automotive Batteries should never be thrown in the trash. State law prohibits landfills from accepting them because they contain lead, which can contaminate drinking water supplies. But there's another important reason not to throw used batteries away. Many parts of them can be used again. You can take your used battery back to the retailer when you buy a new one. Many community recycling centers also accept used batteries. If you have accumulated several, check the Yellow Pages for scrap metal dealers.

Old Tires can be safely recycled in a number of ways. Recapping worn tires so they can be used again is a decades-old form of recycling. Because they make money on recapping, most dealers will take your old tires in partial trade for new ones. Also, a number of industrial processing facilities use chipped tires for fuel or as feedstock for recycled products such as rubberized asphalt. While it is better to recycle old tires than to throw them away, some Massachusetts landfills still accept tires if they are chipped or quartered.

What is Massachusetts Doing?

MassDEP is working with municipalities across the state to develop a network of drop-off centers for common automotive and household wastes. To learn more about getting a program started in your community, or to find out the location of the recycling center nearest you, call the MassDEP Hazardous Waste Management Line at 617-292-5898. Other good sources of information include your local board of health, recycling committee or public works department.