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Recycled oil shifts gears

Senior Airman Trevor Kring, crew chief with the 162nd Maintenance Group, holds a bucket still under a stream of oil while emptying the oil from part of an F-16. Under the bucket is a stack of rags to catch any small spills, which will be commercially wrung to remove the oil. All of the oil that is gathered from routine maintenance or spills is collected and recycled by an outside company, and is then re-refined into motor oil. The 162nd Wing recycles more than 5,000 gallons of oil every year. (Air National Guard photo by Capt. Logan Clark)

Senior Airman Trevor Kring, crew chief with the 162nd Maintenance Group, holds a bucket still under a stream of oil while emptying the oil from part of an F-16. Under the bucket is a stack of rags to catch any small spills, which will be commercially wrung to remove the oil. All of the oil that is gathered from routine maintenance or spills is collected and recycled by an outside company, and is then re-refined into motor oil. The 162nd Wing recycles more than 5,000 gallons of oil every year. (Air National Guard photo by Capt. Logan Clark)

A bucket hangs off the bottom of an engine that has been removed from an F-16 for maintenance. Every drop of oil is gathered during the maintenance process to ensure clean aircraft and hangars, with the added benefit of being able to recycle the oil instead of traditional disposal. (Air National Guard photo by Capt. Logan Clark)

A bucket hangs off the bottom of an engine that has been removed from an F-16 for maintenance. Every drop of oil is gathered during the maintenance process to ensure clean aircraft and hangars, with the added benefit of being able to recycle the oil instead of traditional disposal. (Air National Guard photo by Capt. Logan Clark)

Maintenance Airmen at the 162nd Wing use this metal used oil drum on the edge of the flightline to collect oil from spills or maintenance. The 162nd Wing recycles all of the used oil that it can, adding up to more than 5,000 gallons per year. The used oil is re-refined by an external company and sold as motor oil, which the 162nd Wing uses as part of the U.S. government's push to use recycled products. (Air National Guard photo by Capt. Logan Clark)

Maintenance Airmen at the 162nd Wing use this metal used oil drum on the edge of the flightline to collect oil from spills or maintenance. The 162nd Wing recycles all of the used oil that it can, adding up to more than 5,000 gallons per year. The used oil is re-refined by an external company and sold as motor oil, which the 162nd Wing uses as part of the U.S. government's push to use recycled products. (Air National Guard photo by Capt. Logan Clark)

Senior Airman Trevor Kring, crew chief with the 162nd Maintenance Group, prepares to change the oil in a part of an F-16, checking with a fellow maintainer for accuracy. All of the oil that is gathered from routine maintenance or spills is collected and recycled by an outside company, and is then re-refined into motor oil. The 162nd Wing recycles more than 5,000 gallons of oil every year. (Air National Guard photo by Capt. Logan Clark)

Senior Airman Trevor Kring, crew chief with the 162nd Maintenance Group, prepares to change the oil in a part of an F-16, checking with a fellow maintainer for accuracy. All of the oil that is gathered from routine maintenance or spills is collected and recycled by an outside company, and is then re-refined into motor oil. The 162nd Wing recycles more than 5,000 gallons of oil every year. (Air National Guard photo by Capt. Logan Clark)

TUCSON, Ariz -- Your car could be running on recycled F-16 oil.

At the 162nd Wing, all of the used oil from aircraft maintenance operations is collected and recycled. Yes, recycled.

Just like in your car, aircraft need oil. It helps lubricate, cool, clean, seal and generally protect the parts and engine from corrosion. This oil is critically important to the health of the aircraft--but it doesn't last forever.

The Wing recycles more than 5,000 gallons of used oil every year, as well more than 1,000 gallons of solvent and water-based parts cleaners.

The oil and solvents are picked up through a partnership with a national company, who then re-refines it into motor oil for commercial use.

Recycling oil is a win-win-win: a win for the Wing to dispose of the oil, a win for the company that recycles it, and a win for our community and environment.

The process to recycle oil is more environmentally friendly than to refine it the first time, says Eder Delgadillo, environmental program specialist here.

"Drilling for crude oil is not a very environmentally conscious process," he said, noting that groundwater, surface water like oceans, and soil are often contaminated during drilling and extraction. "Recycling oil minimizes the demand [of crude oil], and thus the risk, of oil contaminating soil, groundwater and surface water."

After years of being told we can't even recycle greasy pizza boxes, it might be a surprise that this is a common practice. In reality, the Wing recycles wherever possible: paper, cardboard, aluminum, plastic, and even scrap electrical wire and other scrap metal are recycled.

Gathering the used oil and solvents is simply part of the maintenance process. Whether changing the oil or wiping floors in hangars, maintainers at the 162nd are trained to gather every drop of the precious liquid in order to keep their areas clean. The added benefit is that the Wing gets to recycle this oil.

Some of the used oil may make it back to the Wing. Aircraft Ground Equipment uses the EcoPower motor oil made from re-refined oil in its vehicles. Because this re-refined oil is not being burned, it helps prevent further greenhouse gas and heavy metal emissions.

Delgadillo also said that the Wing is constantly looking for new recycling opportunities, ways to reduce hazardous waste generation, and overall efficiency with all of our resources. "The 162nd Wing is great environmental steward because it makes it everyone's responsibility."

Airmen are encouraged to practice sustainability, and can bring in their recyclables from home if they can't recycle in their neighborhood. Delgadillo also said that Airmen can make an individual difference.

"The environment is what surrounds us all. The natural or manmade surface we stand on; the ambient air we breathe; what we touch; and what we ingest," he said. "Being a good environmental steward is something we should all have present in our own minds, not just at work, but in our daily lives."