California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) 

Profiles of Used Oil/HHW Projects

Teaching California Immigrants About Proper Used Oil/Filter Disposal Increases Collection

Students and teacher in classroom.Grant Program Focus: “Family Car” lesson taught in English as Second Language classes to increase used oil/filter recycling

Grantee/Jurisdictions Served: Counties of Alameda, Colusa, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, Placer, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Joaquin, San Mateo, San Benito, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano, Sonoma, Stanislaus, Sutter, Yolo.

Target Audience: California immigrants who change their own motor oil

Oil Collection Increase: Over 100,000 gallons (5 percent)

Grantee: C2 Alternative Services

Funding Source: Block Grants and CIWMB Research Demonstration Grant (4th Cycle)

Research indicates that newcomers to California are more likely than the general population to illegally dispose of their used oil1. This trend is often due to immigrants’ lack of awareness of California household hazardous waste disposal laws. To raise immigrant awareness of proper used oil/filter disposal practices in California, C2 Alternative Services (C2) pilot-tested a “Family Car” lesson in adult English as Second Language (ESL) classes in Alameda, Marin, Sonoma, and Napa counties. Following the success of this pilot, C2 recruited ESL teachers in 15 additional counties to teach the “Family Car” lesson in their classes. During the first year of “Family Car” instruction in 600 ESL classes, total collection of used oil in the 18 participating counties increased by an estimated 100,000 gallons.

ESL Classes: Perfect Venue for Oil Recycling Outreach

ESL classes are ideal places to convey information about used oil/filter recycling to adults because:

  • Students are almost universally newcomers to the United States and California.
  • Students are motivated to learn--most students attend voluntarily to learn a critical skill.
  • ESL tends to stress cultural context--students are learning about living in the U.S. as well as learning the language, so the used oil recycling message gives them direction about "the right way to do things here" while also teaching them English words and phrases.
  • Because all information is presented in English, no translation is necessary--often students in a single class speak several different native languages.
  • Language instruction emphasizes repetition, so students hear the used oil message repeated several times in one class and read it again when doing homework.
  • ESL classes are held in a wide variety of venues, ranging from university classes and language institutes to volunteer tutoring and workplace sessions, and therefore reach immigrants throughout a jurisdiction.

The Family Car Lesson

The “Family Car” lesson was developed by a certified ESL instructor in consultation with professors in the ESL certification training program at Sonoma State University. Each ESL student who is taught the “Family Car” receives:

  • A brief oil recycling story with cartoon illustrations in three versions for beginning, intermediate and advanced students;
  • An illustrated vocabulary page;
  • A true/false worksheet;
  • A crossword puzzle;
  • A flow chart showing proper and improper oil disposal options; and
  • A list of local used oil/filter collection sites and/or curbside collection program information.

During “Family Car” classes, students often receive additional free used oil collection containers, funnels, pencils and oil filter recycling bags provided by their local government. Students also practice finding used oil collection information and other recycling/hazardous waste disposal information in their community.

Teacher Recruitment and Orientation

C2 recruits ESL instructors to teach the “Family Car” by contacting various ESL programs in the target region, attending the annual "California Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages" conference and through word-of-mouth. During “Family Car” teacher orientation, C2 provides each instructor with a packet of information that includes the following:

  • Overview of the used oil recycling program explaining the source of funding and the importance of recycling used oil and filters;
  • Explanation of the key messages that each student should learn during the “Family Car” lesson;
  • Copy of the student lesson packet;
  • Overhead transparencies of all pages in the lesson including the local pages, plus fact sheets and an illustration showing what happens to oil that is thrown into a trash can;
  • Bingo cards for playing “oil recycling bingo”;
  • PowerPoint CD with all of the lesson materials plus web resource and local resource pages;
  • Class record form;
  • Description of how to demonstrate an “oil and water visual exercise”;
  • List of “Teacher Tips” derived from teacher ideas recorded on previous class record forms;
  • Fact sheets on used oil and filters;
  • Web resources on used oil, general recycling and other environmental information;
  • Local web resources and oil collection program contacts; and
  • Oil/Filter Collection Program materials from local jurisdictions such as fact sheets and brochures where available.

During “Family Car” orientation, each teacher also is given a set of “realia,” the ESL term for props used to demonstrate words and concepts. The “Family Car” realia kit includes all items illustrated on the student vocabulary page: a drain pan, screw-top jug, motor oil bottle, oil filter, zip lock bag, and oil funnel.

ESL teachers often teach the Family Car lesson in conjunction with topics they are currently covering such as the environment and cars. ESL classes vary not only in the students' level of English comprehension, but also in size of class, length of class period, native languages spoken, and relative numbers of men and women. Some classes contain students who are functionally illiterate (in any language), while others are highly educated. The variety of materials in the Family Car lesson, along with the instructor's skill and creativity in presenting the lesson, provide the flexibility needed to adapt the material to these various conditions.

More information about this program...

1A 2002 survey conducted on behalf of the California Integrated Waste Management Board by the Public Research Institute of San Francisco State University found that newcomers to California who change their own motor oil have a significantly higher incidence of improper used oil disposal than long-term residents. The incidence of illegal oil disposal among residents who have lived in California less than 5 years is 40-43 percent.

Last updated: October 14, 2009
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