The holidays inevitably mean more cooking, and frying turkeys in oil is particularly popular during this time. While the food may be delicious, figuring out how to properly dispose of the used cooking oil is another matter entirely.
Communities across America realize what a significant problem improper disposal of oil presents. For example, Buncombe County in North Carolina estimates that it spends about $200,000 on sewer repair and another $90,000 on maintenance because of problems caused when residents pour used cooking oil down their drains.
Here, we’ll explore the issued caused by improper disposal of cooking oil, as well as the best recycling methods and programs designed specifically for oil recycling.
Problems Caused by Cooking Oil
One of the biggest problems caused by used cooking oil is clogged plumbing, and oil that is improperly disposed of is a major cause of plumbing blockages. Many people dispose of their oil by dumping it down the drain, and this is problematic because oil is thick and easily clings to plumbing surfaces. For those who have septic plumbing systems, oil causes clogs that can damage the entire septic system, leading to a huge repair bill.
In addition to causing numerous plumbing problems, and proper disposal of used cooking oil is potentially harmful to the environment. This harm can be caused by the collection and transport of the oil as well as the greenhouse gas emissions that can be released from oil placed among regular trash. Improperly disposing of it outside can also attract pests and contaminate local water supplies. Not only that, but this oil can leach into the soil, ultimately contaminating waterways.
What to do with Used Cooking Oil?
Now that it has been established that pouring used cooking oil down the drain in inadvisable, the question of what to do with it remains. Some people may believe that since cooking oil is food grade, it can be put into a compost pile. They therefore consider it food waste. Unfortunately, this is not the case and as a general rule, oil has no place in a compost bin.
Most compost piles do not reach a high enough temperature to adequately break down used oil. Putting cooking oil into your compost pile can throw off its balance and can cause a rotting pile.
The best way to handle used cooking oil is to let it cool, pour it into a shatterproof receptacle, and then take it to a local recycling center. Many programs require your used oil to be as free of food particles as possible, so be sure to strain the oil before placing it into a container.
If a local recycling center is unavailable, some municipalities allow residents to dispose of oil in solid form in small amounts along with their regular trash. Though this will keep oil out of plumbing and sewer systems, it will still end up in landfills. It’s always best to check with your community recycling department to be sure you are following acceptable cooking oil disposal methods.
Community Programs for Recycling Cooking Oil
Combustible liquids are typically prohibited from being placed on the curbside with other trash and recyclables. To help citizens combat the problem of improper disposal of cooking oil, many municipalities offer dedicated oil recycling programs. Some of these programs run year-round, while others are only in operation during the peak holiday season.
In addition to oil recycling programs for residential areas, many companies offer oil recycling specifically for restaurants and other facilities that regularly need to dispose of cooking oil. Schools, hospitals, and supermarkets are just some of the facilities that benefit from regular use of oil recycling companies.
Oil recyclers pick up used cooking oil on a schedule and some even offer free cleaning of grease barrels, as well as cleaning the facility’s grease traps and sewer lines. This regular maintenance keeps the used oil from being improperly disposed of and helps facilities remain in compliance with local codes and ordinances.
One oil recycling program, run by an oil processing company in partnership with Ohio-based G.A. Wintzer & Son Co., takes used cooking oil and turns it into animal feed. The company collects used oil via a dedicated collection receptacle left in a centralized location where residents can bring their cooking oil and grease for proper disposal.
Another oil recycling company uses the collected oil to fuel their collection vehicles, also selling the oil to companies that rely on grease-burning engines to power their equipment. This process greatly reduces carbon dioxide and also decreases reliance on fossil fuels, which are in short supply.
Knowing the problems caused by the improper disposal of cooking oil or grease is the first step in remedying the problem. Use the aforementioned tips to help reduce the possibility of cooking oil ending up in a landfill, harming the environment, or causing major plumbing problems.