Why is it important to properly dispose or recycle cooking oil?
Pouring waste cooking oil, liquefied fat, and grease down the drain can cause serious harm to your home and city plumbing systems. Cooking oil fats can cling to the inside of pipes and sewage systems, causing harmful buildup and eventual blockage. These blockages can lead to wastewater backup in your home, pollute your city’s water system, and harm the environment and local wildlife. Just one liter of cooking oil can contaminate up to one million liters of water. With many households using 1-2 liters per month (especially if using oil for deep frying), the importance of proper disposal and recycling is clear.
There are three primary options for dealing with waste cooking oil and grease:
1. Oil Disposal
2. Oil Reuse
3. Oil Recycling
Option #1: Disposing of cooking oil
First, always allow the oil to cool completely prior to disposal or storage. Handling and pouring hot oil can result in spills, splatter, and burns
Note to Reader: Decide whether the oil can be reused. Deep frying oils such as peanut oil, canola oil, or sunflower oil should be reused several times, as large quantities are generally needed for frying. If you are going to reuse oil, jump down to the section below about reusing cooking oil.
If disposing of oil, begin by pouring the cooled oil into a sealable used oil container (disposable tupperware or empty coffee cans work well). You may find it helpful to use a grease disposal system such as the Fat Trapper. Place the used oil container into the freezer to allow the oil to solidify prior to disposal, which will help reduce the chance of a mess in your home or garbage bin.
If you are disposing of a small amount of oil (typical for most households), you may dispose of the used oil container along with your regular garbage. When doing so, be sure that the container is well sealed. Be aware that some municipalities prohibit disposal of cooking oil with your garbage pick-up and can levy significant fines for doing so. Please check your local regulations prior to disposal.
Reusing cooking oil
There are a number of ways in which you can reuse cooking oil in your home or business. Regardless of how you are going to reuse the oil, first allow the oil to cool completely. Proceed to strain the oil through cheesecloth, strainer, or 2-3 coffee filters and pour into a sealable, plastic container. Store the oil in a cool, dry place until you are ready to reuse.
Here are some ways you can reuse your cooking oil:
- Use it again for cooking (up to 2-3 maximum)
- Make your own suet for feeding wild birds
- Add to your compost
- Replace lighter fluid with used cooking oil
- Organic insect pest spray
Recycling cooking oil
Waste cooking oil and grease can be recycled into various substances, including biofuel used for power and heating. These biofuels burn much cleaner than traditional fuel, have a lower carbon content and do not produce harmful carbon monoxide.
Recycling cooking oil waste for households:
Most households produce relatively small amounts of waste cooking oil. However, it is still recommended that all households recycle as much of their waste oil as possible. Recycling is simple, as outlined in the following steps:
1. Allow your oil to cool and pour into plastic storage containers, just as if you were preparing for disposal or reuse. Store your containers in the freeze to allow the oil to solidify.
2. Locate the nearest recycling drop-off location using our Cooking Oil Recycling Directory
3. Plan ahead for recycling. Designate storage containers and drop-off periodically (e.g. once per month)
4. Feel great about protecting your home from damage and helping the environment (and possibly even getting paid for your waste oil, if you have enough – cha ching!)
To note: Many cities and recycling companies will offer additional drop-off locations after Thanksgiving to handle increased demand.
Recycling cooking oil waste for businesses:
If you own a restaurant or other business that generates large amounts of waste cooking oil and grease, there is potential to generate significant additional revenue from recycling waste oil. You can view the current weekly USDA Oilseed report to view current market prices for various oils.
Visit our Cooking Oil Recycling Directory to find a commercial recycling provider near you.