The role of hydraulic fluid is an irreplaceable one, as it powers a wide range of machinery and ensures their optimal performance and efficiency. That being said, fluids degrade and eventually have to be replaced.
But one cannot simply pour it down a drain. Hydraulic fluids, which consist of varying types of oil, pose an environmental risk. This waste can contaminate soil and water sources, making them unusable and spreading sickness for both humans and animals. The trouble doesn’t end just there, however, as degrading hydraulic fluids can emit gases that can exacerbate the issue of climate change, and cause sickness in and of itself.
So, the question stands – how do you safely get rid of hydraulic fluid?
What is Waste Hydraulic Fluid?
Hydraulic fluid circulates hydraulic systems, and along the way, it picks up many contaminants and undergoes thermal stresses. Over time, the fluid is stripped of the properties that once made the system efficient, rendering the entire machine less effective in operation.
What Qualifies as Waste Hydraulic Fluid?
- Degradation of Fluid – It should be fairly obvious when your fluid needs changing, as you will see a massive reduction in viscosity, thermal stability and lubrication.
- Contamination – If, through a checkup, you find that there are high levels of contaminants in the fluid such as water, particulates or by-products of oxidation, then the fluid needs to be changed and can easily be classed as waste fluid.
- System Performance – If there is a lack of efficient performance in the system, it could be anything from a damaged hydraulic component to degraded hydraulic fluid.
Dangers Posed by Contaminants Present in Used Hydraulic Oil
Contaminants do not just present a danger for your hydraulic fluid, but rather your entire system. This is why if you believe your hydraulic oil to be degraded, it must be replaced immediately. The following are reasons why contaminants are bad for your machine.
- Abrasive Wear – Contaminants made up of particulates can cause abrasions within the machine, wearing the components within down and diminishing the life of the machinery components.
- Corrosion – Water can corrode and promote rust within machines, as can certain chemical contaminants.
- Thermal Degradation – The presence of contaminants can compromise the oil’s ability to dissipate heat. This can cause overheating, and oil’s disintegration.
- System Clogging – Sludge and varnish building up within the system over time can cause clogged filters, and the narrowing of passageways – impeding fluid flow and reducing system efficacy.
Storage of Hydraulic Waste Fluid
Getting rid of waste is part of a two-fold plan. First, is to store it – isolating it from the system.
There exist many containers designed for hydraulic oil storage. They are constructed from materials that are resistant to chemicals, ensuring proper sealing for the purposes of transportation or long-term storage. These are what you will use to store hydraulic waste, as this will ensure that there is a place it can go to immediately upon being identified as waste.
Ensure that every suitable container has been cleaned before having the waste-filled into the container. This is so that previous residue, with its own unique contaminants, doesn’t interfere with the new waste, as this could cause reactions that are harmful, such as gases.
It is imperative that you label any waste material as such, to prevent it from being used in any capacity by mistake, and to ensure proper organisation. You should also mark the date of the storage, as well as any possible contaminants. This is important for regulation purposes, as some oils are actually biodegradable.
Safe Storage Practices
Tightly sealing the container is important to prevent unwanted spills, as this can harm the environment. It is also imperative that these containers are kept in areas that are away from heat and direct sunlight. This could cause both ignition and speed up the rate of degradation. Finally, ensure the area is dry.
You should make regular checks to look for leaks or damage to the containers to minimise environmental risks.
Disposal of Waste Hydraulic Fluid
Local Regulations and Guidelines
Ensure that you fully understand your local regulations and guidelines as to how your waste must be disposed of. Local environmental agencies or waste disposal entities will be able to offer invaluable insights and advice on the proper channels for disposal.
Recycling and Repurposing
Discard Hydraulic Fluid actually still holds value. Beyond protecting the environment, recycling often proves to be the most cost-effective method of getting rid of hydraulic fluid. The refined product can be reintroduced to the market, reducing the need to gather fresh materials.
Reused oil has its contaminants removed, and then is cleansed through various treatments to restore the oil’s original properties.
Finding the right disposal service means engaging with companies that are both licensed and have high repute. This ensures they adhere to necessary standards, covering both yourself and the land – as improper disposal can lead to the authorities imposing legal sanctions.
Ensure that, when you are storing and disposing of your oil, you have the necessary details of what you’ve done and where. This allows for transparency and traceability, allowing you to have a paper trail should any issues come up and governing bodies wish to audit you. These documents serve as evidence that can lead authorities right to where your oil now is, and ensure compliance with local regulations.
As you can see, the management of waste hydraulic fluid is of utmost importance and is not a simple matter of tipping it into a sewer drain. Failure to comply could very well lead to financial sanctions, especially if it leads to the contamination of human resources such as water.