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Spill Pad, Mat, Nappy or Tray – Which is Best?

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Spill pads, mats, nappies and trays belong to a category of pollution prevention products designed to capture oil leaks and fuel spills from motor-driven tools, machinery and plant. Spills commonly occur while refuelling equipment or topping up oil. In addition, oil can leak out from older or poorly-maintained equipment.

Under pollution prevention legislation, failure to implement effective spill control measures can lead to site closure, prosecution and fines, not to mention reputational loss from negative headlines. (See Know the Law: Spill Prevention & Dewatering.)

When it comes to choosing spill containment mats, it is important to select the right product type for the job. Ineffective or poorly-designed products won’t prevent pollution and won’t protect you from fines. Using high quality oil drip mats will ensure you protect the environment, minimise your risks and ensure a cleaner workplace for your employees. The good news is that the best products on the market are not necessarily the most expensive.

So which are the best spill containment products for indoor and outdoor use?

Products designed to capture leaks and spills can be split into three categories:

·         Spill trays

·         Absorbent mats, pads and nappies

·         Smart polymer spill pads

Spill Trays

Spill trays are simple steel or plastic bunds used for collecting and containing leaked or spilt contaminants. Low-cost and highly reusable, they are very popular for indoor use. Trays are best for collecting free-flowing liquid, for example when draining an oil sump. For oil drips, a tray might be overkill and an absorbent oil spill pad could be considered.

Spill trays should not be used outdoors as rainfall may cause them to overflow – releasing pollutants into the environment.

Low-costCan fill with rain and overflow
Robust & ReusableWater pooled inside must be disposed of in a compliant manner
Wide range of sizes Trays can corrode and degrade
Cumbersome to transport and store
Solid sidewalls mean that vehicles can’t be driven onto them

Absorbent Spill Mats, Pads and Nappies

Polyproplene-based absorbents are the active material in the majority of spill containment products and spill kits on the market today.

Although commonly used outdoors, polypropylene absorbents do not retain pollutants permanently. Polypropylene is a sponge-like material; liquid can go in but it can also come out again.
This is most evident when it rains. If polypropylene gets saturated, the absorbed pollutants can float out on top of the excess water. A rainbow sheen around these products after rainfall is a tell-tale sign.

To get around this, some polypropylene spill containment products have sidewalls but, oddly, these usually contain the same absorbent material as the base – so the contaminants can still leak out as the product fills with water.

Any contaminated water contained inside must be disposed of in a hazardous waste bins. This presents two problems: firstly, the volume of contaminated water generated in wet weather would significantly increase your waste disposal costs. Secondly, products with sidewalls are impractical to move when full without spilling water over the sides. In reality, operatives simply leave them to overflow or tip the contaminated water onto the ground.

Contaminants are also likely to drain out if these products are stored or carried in an upright position after use. Jet washing, too, will flush contaminants out.
Absorbent-based pads, mats and nappies can be used until their quoted oil retention capacity is reached, although for reasons explained above this is a somewhat redundant concept.

ReusableProne to leaking when saturated
Wide range of sizes Leak when carried or stored vertically
Effective indoors for drips and small spills Risk of pollution and fines remains
Can be used outdoors in dry weather Added waste disposal costs
May encourage non-compliant behaviour

Smart Polymer Spill Pads

Smart polymer spill pads use an innovative process to solidify oil, fuel and other hydrocarbons inside the pad – neutralising the pollutants.

Green Rhino’s EnviroPad® is the market-leading smart polymer spill pad and the only one designed for outdoor use. Its proprietary smart polymer reacts with hydrocarbons forming a solid and insoluble rubber-like substance.

The solidified pollutants are trapped inside the pad and physically cannot leak. Rainwater isn’t contaminated by the solidified pollutants, so excess water can be allowed to drain out before storage or disposal. Book an onsite demonstration.

EnviroPad® is available in a range of sizes including models large and robust enough for mini-diggers and JCBs to be parked on top.

A unique feature of the EnviroPad’s industrial spill mats is that it has operating and disposal instructions printed on it, ensuring that operatives know how to use the pads correctly and can easily determine when they need replacing.

Smart polymer spill pads can be reused until their oil retention capacity has been reached.

Zero leakage in any conditions None
Eliminate risk of pollution and fines
Easy to transport and store
Rugged and reusable
No waste water


For indoor use (e.g. vehicle depots and maintenance workshops), a metal or plastic spill tray is a cheap and effective solution, especially for collecting free-flowing liquid. For drips and small spills, a spill pad may be considered.

For outside use, spill trays and absorbent based spill pads, mats and nappies are prone to leaking and overflowing in wet weather, which will incur clean-up costs if site staff are diligent; pollution if they are not.

It also means that, after every heavy rainstorm, there can be litres of contaminated water pooled inside these products which will need to be disposed of in hazardous waste bins – increasing your waste disposal costs and, ultimately, the lifetime cost of the product.

The best spill containment option for outdoor use is the EnviroPad® smart polymer spill pad. It doesn’t leak, doesn’t create waste water for disposal and – surprisingly – costs less than the market-leading absorbent-based products. See for yourself by booking an onsite demonstration.

 Spill Tray Absorbent-based Smart Polymer
Spill control ContainAbsorb Solidify
Where to use Indoors only Indoors / Outside in dry weather Indoors / Outside
Risk when rains OverflowsLeaks / Overflows None
Risk when moved Spills Leaks / Spills None
Can be drained No No Yes
Reusable Yes Yes Yes
Waste disposal Contents of tray
must be disposed
of as hazardous waste
Spent product and any water
pooled inside must be disposed
of as hazardous waste
Spent product must
be disposed of as
hazardous waste
Price range £–££ ££–£££ ££–£££
Potential lifetime cost ££-£££ ££–£££ £-££

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