The Crude, The Bad and The Ugly

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MAIN TOPIC OF VIDEO:  Recycling of Motor Oil Products (Oil and Filter)

Episode03 copy



  1. What are the uses for motor oil? Be as specific as possible.
  2. What is crude petroleum? Be as specific as possible.
  3. Why do storm drains have the following sign: DO NOT DUMP – FLOWS TO BAY. Be as specific as possible.


  1. How can used motor oil be recyclable? Be as specific as possible.
  2. How can used motor oil filters be recyclable? Be as specific as possible.
  3. What are the environmental benefits of recycling motor oil products (oil and filters)? Be as specific as possible.


  1. How can you be a part of the movement to recycle used motor oil products? Be as specific as possible.
  2. How can used motor oil impact aquatic ecosystems? Be as specific as possible.
  3. Why does it make economic sense to make recycled motor oil products? Be as specific as possible.



  1. Motor oil is used a lubricant for engines especially for automobile engine. It makes the car engine run better. Most cars like mine (Toyota Corolla 2000) undergo a motor oil change every 3 months or 3,000 miles. Another way to determine whether your car needs an oil change is to open up the motor oil compartment and using the dipstick, determine whether the oil is dirty. Clean motor oil is usually golden. When it gets black, its time for an oil change.
  2. Crude petroleum is the gooey substance that is pumped/extracted from the ground or from the seabed. Crude petroleum is then shipped to refineries where there undergo further processing into products such as jet fuel, asphalt, candle wax (yes, the kind that’s on your birthday cake!), automobile gasoline, and diesel for heavy trucks and ships. Increasingly, petroleum products are becoming part of our menu as petroleum is commonly used in pesticides, which are sprayed on our food products. Next time, you enter buy a McDonald’s Happy Meal, think of the many petroleum products used.
  3. Next time you walk by a storm drain (if you don’t know what one looks like, its usually a small, rectangular hole on the side of the sidewalk). Unlike household sewage (wastes from your sink or toilet) which ends up in sewage lines to be treated in a sewage treatment facility, whatever ends up in a storm drain ends up in the creek or a river, eventually making its way to the bay and the ocean. Its function is exactly as stated; it is a storm drain, which is used to take away runoff that is produced during a rainstorm.


  1. Motor oil can become recyclable as technology has increased through the re-refinement process of motor oil.
  2. Motor oil filter can become recyclable because the steel in it can be recycled and become other steel products.
  3. The environmental benefits of recycling motor oil products include less dependence on crude petroleum. In addition, it will reduce the amount of carbon dioxide produced as motor oil products are made. Lastly, in addition to carbon dioxide being produced, other side products produced include sulfur dioxide, suspended particulate matter such as ash, which pollutes the air.


  1. Students can use a variety of multimedia methods to inform the public such as videos in the form of a public service announcement, posters around the school encouraging the recycling of motor oil products (oil and filter) and discouraging the dumping of used motor oil into storm drains. Most importantly, students need to be able to translate the environmental reasons stated above into common every day language so the community will buy in. Depending on the age of the student, multimedia can be in several languages and can varied in terms of the depth of scientific knowledge.
  2. Use motor oil as a petroleum based product affect the aquatic ecosystem in many ways. Firstly, it will damage aquatic life both plant and animal. For example, motor oil will leave an oily sheen on top of the water due to its density thereby potentially coating marine organisms with oil if dumped in large amounts. Secondly, motor oil due to its refined nature contains organic solvents, which are harmful to the aquatic environment. Thirdly, some of these solvents such as PCBs are water insoluble, which can potentially bio-accumulate and bio-magnify in the aquatic ecosystem.
  3. This question will give students the opportunity to “think outside the box” as high school students will wonder how economics is connected to science. As stated in the video, the recycling of motor oil will lead to less dependence on imported oil. This implication creates more than just economic issues but also creates political sensitivities as the ones implicating that US involvement in Iraq was due to oil not weapons of mass destruction. Nevertheless, the older and more informed the students, the richer and more diverse the lesson.


  1. Did you find this hidden feature in the film? On the bottom (center) of the car there  is a number corresponding to the amount of  grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer. This can be converted from mpg, so students can calculate their own car’s amount of carbon dioxide emissions.  Check out this link on these useful computations! PDF/Word
  2. Have students bring in household items they believe contain petroleum-based products.
  • *This activity can be modified for different age groups. For example, for a lower elementary grade classroom, a teacher can restrict the type of material brought in so the petroleum connection is obvious. For older students especially high school students, each student group of 4 can be assigned to bring in petroleum-based products from different consumer groups. For example, one group can bring in petroleum-based products from food products. Then each group can present to the class where and how petroleum was used to product the item. My favorite is a McDonald’s Happy Meal where students determine the ingredients/components of each Happy Meal item.
  • Before having younger students put a drop of cooking oil in a cup of water, ask them to write down what will happen. After putting in a drop of oil, ask them to write them what happened. Most importantly, ask them why it happened.
  • For older students, consider setting up a scenario where students simulate an oil spill and ask them to write down how to cleanup the spill.

Credit: This teacher resource has been adapted from content originally developed by Chung Khong.     

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