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
This is a common practice in most households since it is generally acceptable to store used cooking oil then dispose of it with the other household garbage. However, there are proper steps and points to keep in mind.
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
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.
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, though:
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.”
6. Mix with other solid waste materials
Before you dispose of the used cooking oil, you can actually blend it with other absorbent waste materials to “convert” it into solid waste. You can then just store that properly per normal process and then include it in your daily household waste disposal
It’s easy to see that this method helps to soak up the liquid quickly.This makes a less messy situation and helps out city sanitation workers at the same time.
To make a more profound impact on our environment, you can opt to reuse or recycle cooking oil. The next section explores these options further.
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:
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 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.
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 rid of grease while helping reduce non-recyclable waste.
2. When reusing cooking oil, keep track of its “expiration date”.
Knowing the telltale signs of bad cooking oil is the cardinal rule of reusing it. This is based on a wide range of signs, including the appearance, texture, and smell of the oil. Here are some general tips from the experts:
Based on the above, here’s a quick guide:
Are you reusing cooking oil from a dish that’s been breaded or battered?
It’s safe to reuse up to 3 to 4 times.
Are you reusing cleaner or clearer cooking oil from frying potato chips or french fries?
It’s safe to reuse 8 times. This can be reused much longer if it is also replenished or combined with new, fresh oil.
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.
If you’re interested in learning how to make soap, you can find step-by-step, cooking oil soap-making instructions here.
5. Reuse cooking oil as a non-toxic insecticide or weed-killer.
Ironically while insects and small animals love cooking oil, you can also use it to keep bugs away. The oil effectively suffocates harmful bugs as it coats its bodies and blocks the pores that they use to breathe. Besides that, it’s also an eco-friendly option since it’s just veggie-based oil.
Here’s how you can make insecticide out of cooking oil:
When you’re ready to use your own homemade cooking oil pesticide spray mix, here’s what you need to do:
A related option is to use vegetable oil as a weed-killer. Use it the same way as a pesticide.
If you prefer recycling used cooking oil over reusing it, then the next section offers you some basic tips.
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
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.
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 or call the relevant local or state 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.
You can also use the following web-based resources to search for recycling centers that are happy to put your waste cooking oil to good use:
Another alternative is to contact the 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 your local FD.
Recycling cooking oil has some great benefits including:
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.
Frequently Asked Questions
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.