Are you wondering how to get rid of used cooking oil? After preparing fried chicken, stir-fry, or bacon & eggs, pouring it 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.
There are actually several steps you can take to dispose of used cooking oil in a safe, effective, and eco-friendly way. Some ways like plant compost are probably quite surprising.
DISPOSING COOKING OIL: What NOT TO DO
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 Sink
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 The Sink - Even In Small Amounts
In fact, it might seem like a little grease from fried chicken is harmless if you pour it down the sink. Guess again! If you’re using a frying pan, for example, you could simply use a paper towel to remove excess grease from the item.
That said, there are some recycling experts who recommend against wiping pots, pans, and trays with a paper towel. The reason is after you take that step, you can’t recycle the paper towel.
Don’t Pour Down Toilet
This is another step you should avoid. The reason is it 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.
Cooking Oil Disposal: Basics
Store and Dispose
You can simply store the used cooking oil then dispose of it with the other garbage. Make sure to store it in unrecyclable containers like take-out boxes or empty milk cartons. You should seal the containers correctly then get rid of it with the rest of the household garbage.
Contact Local Restaurants
The reason this option is a good one is they’ll have sources for hazardous waste disposal. There’s a chance they might allow you to add your small amount of cooking oil to their vat.
One of the main benefits of this option is you can be assured the waste is being disposed of properly. It’s actually a better option than tossing it out with regular household garbage.
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.
Store in Glass Jars
This is an oldie-but-goodie option. Warning: Make sure the oil cools down first to room temperature!
Once that’s done, simply pour the used vegetable oil into the glass jars. Besides disposing of oil properly, this also allows you to reuse old jars.
This can be an effective way to delay how soon you dispose of/recycle the oil. You won’t be able to reuse it an unlimited number 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.
That said, it’s important to know the telltale signs of bad cooking oil. This is based on a wide range of signs, including the appearance, texture, and smell of the oil.
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.
Here’s a good rule of thumb from kitchen experts for reusing cooking oil:
Based on the above, if you are reusing cooking oil from food that’s been breaded or battered, then it’s safe to reuse 3 to 4 times. With used frying oil that’s cleaner or clearer from potato chips or similar dishes (french fries, for example), this can be used as many as 8 times. This can be reused much longer if it is also replenished or combined with new, fresh oil.
Make sure to check with the local department of public works first to find out if there are any free programs available. You could just Google the question or call the office to find out whether or not such programs are available.
Afterwards, you’ll just have to drop off the cooking oil. They’ll handle the rest of the work so others can use the cooking oil for some tasty fried chicken or shrimp tempura.
Other Cooking Oil Disposal Methods
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.).
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. That’s it!
Add to Compost
This might be surprising since it’s oil, right? Well, if you’re using 100% vegetable cooking oil, then it’s simply extracted from foods like:
So since these are all-natural foods, it’s perfectly safe to add to your regular compost pile. The exception is if you added animal fat or cooked with meat, since this could attract unwanted bugs and small animals.
Fun Fact: Earthworms actually enjoy eating cooking oil. So when you add some cooking oil to your compost pile, you’re benefiting the oil and creepy crawlers underneath.
There’s a caveat. Try to minimize how much cooking oil you add. One reason is it might attract more critters besides worms. Another issue is it might cause a situation in which there’s too much grease and blocks air/water flow. If you want to impress your friends and family, the fancy term is “hydrophobic barriers.”
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.
Mix with Other Materials
Before you dispose of the used cooking oil, you can actually blend it with other absorbent stuff like:
What’s the big deal? This helps to soak up the liquid quickly. If you’re a cat owner, then save used oil until it’s time to dump the litter. Then simply add the oil into the litter before tossing it out. This makes a less messy situation and helps out city sanitation workers at the same time.
Use as Pesticide/Weed-killer
Ironically while insects and small animals love cooking oil, you can also use it to keep bugs away. Besides that, it’s also an eco-friendly option since it’s just veggie-based oil.
Here’s how it works. Add the cooking oil into a spray bottle and lightly spray plants on a humid day. It might kill the bugs, but even if it doesn’t, it will help to keep the annoying bugs away.
A related option is to use vegetable oil as a weed-killer. Use it the same way as a pesticide.
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 since maybe you can donate your small cooking oil.
Cooking Oil Recycling
Consider liquid or solid
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 one block. 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.
Pick a container
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.
Keep filling up container
You don’t have to worry about the different kinds of cooking oil you’re using. However, you should certainly remove any large pieces of meat or veggies.
Find a recycling center
Sometimes recycling centers accept used cooking oil as part of household hazardous waste (HHW). In some situations, they’ll only accept cooking oil during the holiday season. If that’s the case, you can look for other disposal solutions.
Contact local Fire Department
In some situations, they’ll accept used cooking oil for recycling. This not only helps to get rid of the cooking oil but also supports the local FD.
Top Benefits of Recycling Cooking Oil
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:
Mistakes to Avoid
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.
Absolutely, positively: 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!