After preparing fried chicken, stir-fry, or bacon & eggs, pouring used cooking oil down the drain might seem to be the fastest and easiest solution. However, that’s the worst thing to do because grease can clog up kitchen pipes and local sewage systems. These are both situations you should avoid.
So, to help you with proper disposal, we’ve outlined the steps you can take to dispose of used cooking oil at home in a safe, effective, and eco-friendly way. We’ve also included some creative tips for you to incorporate used cooking oil in compost and in making other useful items like soap.
Remember that even the smallest amount of grease poured down the drain on a daily basis can have a cumulative and potentially harmful effect to your home and the environment.
Simple, Easy Steps for Cooking Oil Disposal
1. Store properly and then dispose along with other household waste
- First make sure the used oil is cool enough to pour into another container intended for disposal.
- Once it’s cool enough, make sure to store it in sealable, disposable containers like plastic bottles, take-out boxes or empty milk cartons.
- Seal the containers properly and tightly.
- Once tightly sealed, you can now include this in your food waste bin for disposal.
- You can freeze used cooking oil if you prefer dealing with it in “solid” form rather than as liquid waste. It takes about a day to completely freeze used cooking oil.
- Do not use plastic bags to store used cooking oil when trying to mix it in with your other household waste. Plastic bags aren’t sturdy enough and used oil may potentially leak out of the bags.
Also, just an interesting cooking oil fact:
Did you know that you can preserve cooking oil by freezing it? As long as it’s sealed tight, fresh, unused or unopened cooking oil can last up to 2 years in the freezer and about 1 year in the pantry.
2. Take used oil to restaurants for correct disposal
Do you know anyone who owns a restaurant? Or, perhaps, you live close by a restaurant? The reason why having a restaurant helps you in disposing of cooking oil is because they will have sources for hazardous waste disposal so you can be assured the waste is being disposed of properly.
3. Contact a household hazardous waste disposal company
This is a multi-beneficial option since companies that collect household hazardous waste (HHW) often collect other categories like medical waste. If they have a doorstep pick-up service, then this gives you a chance to get rid of multiple types of hazardous waste at one time.
ACTenviro can most definitely help you with household hazardous waste disposal.Get in touch with us. We’re happy to provide you with a free quote.
4. Use a Grease Disposal System
This is actually a system kit that works as grease disposal. This system includes a plastic container with foil-lined bags that can hold a maximum of 32 ounces (2 lbs). You can choose many available options such as this The Fat Trapper Grease Disposal System sold by Bed, Bath and Beyond.
Just put a bag into the container then pour used/COOLED cooking oil into the bag. After the bag is full, seal it up and throw the bag into the garbage.
5. Add to compost
6. Mix with other solid waste materials
- Cat litter
Tips for Reusing Cooking Oil
1. Store in Glass Jars
This is an oldie-but-goodie option because it’s a great way to store used cooking oil before reusing it for another dish. Another benefit of this option is that it also allows you to reuse old jars.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Once you’re all done with frying, you can simply leave the used cooking oil in the flying pan to cool down.
- Once cool enough, you can now carefully transfer it to a glass container.
- Seal the container tightly.
- Make sure you store used cooking oil separately depending on what type of dish you were using the cooking oil with. For example, don’t mix used cooking oil from fried chicken with used cooking oil that you used for some stir-fry seafood. Common sense would tell us that these flavors won’t mix well together.
- Once that’s done, you can safely store your glass container in your pantry or kitchen shelves.
Storing used cooking oil in glass jars is one effective way to delay how soon you dispose of/recycle the grease. You won’t be able to reuse it in an unlimited number of times, of course. However, based on factors like what kind of food you’re cooking (meat/veggies), how much food you’re cooking, and the cooking temperatures—you can often get about 2 to 6 (tops) re-uses from the cooking oil.
To make the most out of your used cooking oil and keep it free from “impurities”, one common kitchen hack is to place a small strainer or piece of coarse cloth on the mouth of the glass jar as you pour it. This allows you to effectively strain any bits and pieces of batter or other foodstuff.
If you’re using a strainer, always remember to wipe out any excess traces of oil before washing it in the sink to avoid having even small amounts of grease going down the drain.
Now, it might be instinctive of us to wipe out grease from strainers, dishes, pots and pans with paper towels, and then afterwards, throw the used, greasy paper towels in the recycling bin because – well, paper towels are generally recyclable, right?
Paper towels that are lined with grease are generally not accepted by recycling centers. It’s best to use other more eco-friendly alternatives like a wash cloth cut up from an old t-shirt or a microfiber cleaning cloth that you can easily rinse, wash, dry and get rid of grease while helping reduce non-recyclable waste.
2. When reusing cooking oil, keep track of its “expiration date”.
- If you do decide to reuse cooking oil, make sure you separate cooking oil used to fry fish or other seafood from cooking oil used to fry chicken, pork or beef. It’s also important to label jars that you can indicate what sort of food the cooking oil has been fried with.
- Cooking oil from fried chicken can be stocked and reused 3 to 4 times max. Tests show that after the 4th reuse of used fried chicken cooking oil, it showed a murky, green color.
- Cooking oil from potato chips are generally “cleaner” which means this type of used cooking oil can be used a maximum of 8 times.
3. Convert soybean oil into biodiesel.
Can you really rev up a diesel engine with soybean oil? It turns out it’s a possibility. Consider that corn is used for that exact purpose today.
One caveat is you’ll need more than the cooking oil used for frying an egg. You’ll actually require large amounts. In fact, some industries like restaurants have even made a business of it. They sell industrial amounts of cooking oil to companies, which convert it into biodiesel.
You can find various online resources to find local companies that convert cooking oil into biodiesel. If they only accept bulk amounts, find a local restaurant that follows the practice. Perhaps you can donate your own household cooking oil.
4. Make soap.
This is probably the last thing most people would likely consider using used cooking oil for. Usually, soap is produced from fat. Thus, using cooking oil to make soap is practical since it’s another way to reuse the oil besides cooking with it again.
It’s also 100% better than tossing the oil into the garbage can. That’s the opposite of the 3-Rs and definitely less eco-friendly.
5. Reuse cooking oil as a non-toxic insecticide or weed-killer.
- Mix 1 cup of used vegetable oil with 1 tablespoon of soap in any container as long as you can close it with a lid.
- Cover it tightly and shake thoroughly.
- Add 2 teaspoons of oil spray mix with 1 quart of water in a generic spray bottle.
- Spray directly on the surface of pest-infested plants.
How to Recycle Cooking Oil
Step 1: Preparation
Consider if you prefer used cooking oil in liquid or solid form.
Some people would rather deal with solid waste versus liquid form. If that’s the case, then simply let the oil cool down, and it will turn into a block of frozen grease. If you want it to be super-solid, then freeze the cooking oil after it cools down, so it solidifies more. One of the main benefits of freezing cooking oil is it’s easier to deal with. That includes whether you plan on reusing it soon or disposing of it.
If you don’t mind directly storing used cooking oil in its liquid form, then store it as we have earlier mentioned in the first part of this article: cool the cooking oil, transfer to a plastic container with a tightly-closed lid and then include it in your food waste bin for proper disposal.
Step 2: Pick the right container
For recycling, you have various options like plastic butter containers or coffee cans. Make sure to label the container, so nobody confuses cooking oil for ground coffee beans.
You don’t have to refrigerate the oil. The only exception is if you plan to reuse it later.
Step 3: Keep filling up container
This is especially true if you only use very little amounts of cooking oil. By topping it up as needed, you can make the most out of the container you’re using and also save time by dropping off all your used cooking oil in one go.
You don’t have to worry about the different kinds of cooking oil mixed up in the one disposal container you’re using because, in this case, it’s assumed that these have already been reused to its maximum capacity and ready to drop these off at the recycling center
However, you should certainly remove any large pieces of meat or veggies.
Step 4: Find a recycling center
- The Green Directory by Green Citizen
- Find recycling centers near you through Earth 911’s search tool
- Use Recycling Center Near Me’s Cooking Oil Disposal page
- It’s a good way to turn a common household waste item into clean biodiesel that powers most diesel engines.
- It prevents pouring greasy oil into the drain, which can clog/damage pipes and sewage systems.
- Restaurant owners and other businesses can earn money by selling a large amount of used cooking oil to be processed by commercial oil recyclers
Mistakes to Avoid When Disposing of Used Cooking Oil
- Don’t pour down drain
It’s just as important to know how NOT to dispose of cooking oil than how to dispose of it. There’s no question that used cooking oil is nasty. It’s especially true if you’ve been deep-frying food, for example, since there might be lard or vegetable shortening involved in the process—that makes the oil even more dangerous.
- Don’t pour down the sink – even in small amounts
This might seem like an easy step, but it’s also quite dangerous. Even a little cooking oil can clog up the kitchen/sewage pipes. If that happens, you’ll have to hire a plumber for repairs, which can be quite expensive.If the sewage pipes get clogged up, that can actually affect neighborhood basements due to leaking sewage.
- Don’t pour down toilet
Pouring used cooking oil down the toilet can cause several of the same problems as pouring it down the sink. That involves bathroom pipes, sewage pipes, etc.
One of the key problems is based on basic physics laws: oil and water don’t mix. Besides that, the drain line walls will also get damaged. Another factor is the oil moves slower than water. That, in turn, will cause it to mix with other stuff and clog up the whole piping system.The situation is worse when you’re dealing with used cooking oil versus new cooking oil. When the oil is used, stuff like animal fat worsens the situation and increases the risk of clogged pipes/sewage.
- Don’t pour hot oil into the garbage can.
This can attract lots of stuff like bugs and rats. It can even cause issues with garbage trucks as well as solid waste sites.
- Don’t add to the septic system.
The reason is it can clog up pipes and even affect the drainage field and distribution lines. There’s even a chance it could pollute local waterways.
As much as it’s beneficial to properly dispose of, reuse and recycle used cooking oil, what actually works best is to reduce the use of it in the first place. Follow along the next section as we show you some effective ways for you to reduce the use of cooking oil.
Tips for Reducing the Use of Cooking Oil
One way to tick off used cooking oil disposal from your to-do list at home is to actually use less of it when cooking. Not only is “oil-less” cooking generally healthier, it also makes for more delicious, creative dishes.
Here are some tips that you can use in the kitchen for reducing the use of cooking oil:
- Use an air fryer.
Designed to simulate frying, an air fryer is a great alternative to traditional frying. It utilizes hot air circulating at high-speed which then browns or crisps the food placed inside.
While it may seem more tedious than frying, baking is a healthier alternative. There are tons of dishes that you can bake instead of fry: potato croquettes, samosas, fritters, kebabs and patties – these (and more) taste delicious, warm and tender when baked.
- Steam or pre-cook.
Have you ever had steamed fish? Or steamed chicken breasts? When sprinkled with garlic, pepper, salt and generous amounts of butter, it tastes heavenly! Pair it up with some boiled potatoes and carrots, and you have a quick, healthy dish. Pre-cooking before frying also reduces the amount of oil needed.
Use a shallow frying pan. Instead of deep frying, frying from a shallow frying pan with a lid helps consume less oil. It also traps moisture which also helps cook food sooner and make it taste better.
You should generally dispose of it after using it 2 or 3 times. However, if the smell is OK and it burns hot, then you can keep using the oil.
You can, but it should cool down first. Put it in a sealed and sturdy container. This will help it from leaking into the other garbage.
Yes, you can use the cooking oil as compost, but only if you were frying plant-based foods. If you were frying any meat products, the oil could attract critters like rats and raccoons.
No. You can’t do that since grease will clog up pipes and damage the local wastewater mains. Better options include reusing the oil or storing it in a sealed/non-breakable container.
You can do that by putting it in a sealed/non-breakable container then toss it into the trash. You can take it to a local waste center if it accepts grease.
The global market for used cooking oil is worth about $6 billion (2019), according to Global News Wire. There are several options for “disposing of” cooking oil, including reusing, blending, and recycling. Besides the basics, you can also use the used oil for compost, pesticides, or biodiesel.
The main takeaway is to dispose of the cooking oil in a safe and responsible way. This will help to minimize the effects on your household, neighborhood, and city/town. That, in turn, means you can keep on cooking up tasty morsels.