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Minister for the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts 2001-2004

The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP



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Media Release
Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Dr David Kemp

17 May 2004

Clean boating - oil spills aren't slick

Boat owners can more conveniently recycle their used engine oil with the establishment of hundreds of additional collection facilities around the country, said Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp.

Through the Product Stewardship for Oil Program, the Australian Government has provided $10 million in funding to develop an extensive infrastructure of collection sites throughout both metropolitan and regional areas. Over 400 new sites have already been opened, with another 300 scheduled to open by the end of 2004.

"The release of pollutants into water - particularly used oil - remains a problem around the world. Storm water runoff, industry activities, and the oil that is continuously discharged from sources such as bilges, motors, careless fuelling habits and the improper disposal of used oil products all contribute to the problem," Dr Kemp said.

"Over 500 million litres of virgin lubricating oil are sold annually in Australia, but recent figures suggest that up to 100 million litres of used oil goes missing each year. Put into perspective, just one litre of used oil can contaminate up to one million litres of water."

Floating oil contaminates the uppermost portion of the water column - the microlayer - which is home to thousands of species of plants animals and microbes. The abundance of life in the microlayer attracts predators: seabirds from above and fish from below. To survive, fish, shellfish, sea birds and other forms of aquatic life require a balance of nutrients, oxygen and clean water.

"Even small quantities of toxic products in the water can disrupt this balance, with lasting harmful effects. Because heavy metal in used oil can bio-accumulate in plants and wildlife and can lead to poisoning in the food chain, and therefore, pose a risk to human health," Dr Kemp said.

The Product Stewardship for Oil Program provides incentives to increase used oil recycling. As part of the Australian Government's commitment to managing used oil, a levy-benefit system has been introduced where a levy collected on new oil funds benefit payments to used oil recyclers.

Complementing the benefit payments is transitional assistance funding, where $34.5 million over seven years is being provided to encourage environmentally sustainable management and re-refining of used oil.

"The protection of our marine environment is the responsibility of everyone and particularly those who use it. Be aware of the threats to our waterways and oceans and of the serious effects pollutants such as used oil can have on aquatic life. Carefully extract your used oil, put it in a container, and appropriately recycle it," Dr Kemp said.

To locate your nearest used oil collection facility, visit or call 1800 982 006.

Commonwealth of Australia