Few of us are left unaffected when oil spills contaminate our oceans and beaches, harming wildlife and particularly coastal bird populations. But how many of us realise the risks posed by the used oil from vehicles? It takes only one litre of used motor oil to contaminate one million litres of water, with potentially disastrous effects, not to mention the dangers posed by it seeping into the soil.
Aside from the risks to wetlands, wildlife, and marine and freshwater organisms, human health is adversely affected. Used oil contains extremely harmful compounds which, besides other risks, can have carcinogenic properties. One of the issues being tackled by the ROSE Foundation, a non-profit organisation that manages the effective collection, storage and recycling of used lubricating oil, is the oil used in commercial farming.
For instance, used oil is utilised by farmers as a cheaper alternative to wood preservative on fences and vineyard poles. It is also used on livestock
and sprayed on dirt roads to control dust. Raj Lochan, CEO of the ROSE Foundation, warns, “The used oil will eventually seep into the ground, contaminating the soil and water table and entering rivers and dams where the water is drawn for irrigation and drinking.”
The bad news is that spilled oil decomposes very slowly so it accumulates. The good news is that the ROSE Foundation is striving to change these practices. “ROSE has placed a priority on educating and creating awareness in the minds of the public and changing farming practices. Conversion to more sustainable agricultural practice is necessary both to preserve South Africa’s biodiversity and to ensure a future resource base,” says Lochan. “We all share the responsibility of protecting our environment and keeping our waters safe. It is ironic that in a water poor country such as South Africa, the very sector that relies on clean, fresh water the most is poisoning it! However it is never too late to change the way
things are done and through combined efforts and energy, we can make a marked difference in the operating practices of many farms throughout SA. Recycling used oil allows us to continue to enjoy what many of us take for granted every day – clean, potable water,” concludes Lochan.
Information kindly supplied by ROSE. To find out more about the dangers of used oil, the work of the foundation and where to drop off your used oil, visit www.rosefoundation.org.za.