Our History

POWERED BY A SINGLE PURPOSE FROM DAY ONE: TO MAKE GREEN WORK.

Safety-Kleen is a leading provider of environmental services, oil re-refining and responsible cleaning solutions.

We are at the forefront of developing practical green processes for business, just as we were the day the company was founded. In fact, for many years, we were virtually alone. Few people share our passion for keeping workplaces safe by keeping the environment clean. That passion, and the resulting innovation, punctuates our history with notable firsts and remarkable achievements.

Key moments in Safety-Kleen story:

The Beginning: In 1954, Ben Palmer invented the PartsWasher. Deemed the “Safety-Kleen” washer, it was a success from the start.  Palmer believed that spelling the name as “Kleen” instead of “Clean” would garner attention and that it did.

The 1960’s: Palmer decided in early 1960’s not to sell his machine, but rather to lease it to the customer and provide services such as removing and replenishing the used solvent. This practice is still maintained today through the Safety-Kleen service structure. In 1963, Safety-Kleen became officially incorporated and Palmer worked at growing the business in three cities of the country.

In 1968, Safety-Kleen was sold to Chicago Rawhide which would forever change the path of the company. They bought an old oil plant in Chicago and opened it as a recycling or “reclamation” plant which became a tool for increasing volumes of used solvent generated in the Midwest.

The 1970’s: In 1972, Safety-Kleen launched its first allied product, the oil filter, and their first major advertising campaign targeting service stations and garages. Also, in 1972 they sold their 100,000th parts washer marking a huge company milestone.

In 1974, Safety-Kleen spun off from Chicago Rawhide becoming an independent company. And as the EPA era began, Safety-Kleen was the largest solvent recycler processing more than 25 million gallons a year.

The 1980’s: In 1982, Safety-Kleen became listed on the New York Stock Exchange and by the end of the year held more than 9.1 million shares, grew to a company worth a billion dollars and employed nearly 5,000.

In 1987, Safety-Kleen began its oil recovery business, which  reclaimed used oil and re-refined it through their first re-refinery in Breslau, Ontario Canada.

The 1990’s: In 1998, Safety-Kleen merged with Laidlaw Environmental. Unfortunately the success of the merger was short-lived and Safety-Kleen filed for bankruptcy in 2000.

Present Day: After successfully emerging from bankruptcy and relocating to Texas, a new turnaround strategy was implemented. In 2005, after sustained revenue and EBITDA growth, Safety-Kleen obtained new financing. Safety-Kleen refinanced its senior debt facility and completed $500 million in re-capitalization. The company received new, improved financial ratings from S&P(BB-) and Moody's (B1).

In 2008, Safety-Kleen introduced EcoPower recycled motor oil to consumers. The oil is re-refined at our two North American re-refineries and entered back into the marketplace.

In December 2012, Safety-Kleen was purchased by CleanHarbors, Inc., forming the largest environmental services company in North America, approaching $4 billion in annual revenue.


About Us