How to Dispose of Cooking Oil The Correct and Responsible Way
When you pour cooking oil down the drain or garbage disposal, it eventually solidifies and clogs the pipes. This can damage your kitchen pipeline or the local sewer mains of your city.
In Clackamas County, Oregon, for instance, local wastewater treatment services have been struggling to cope with the amount of oil and grease clogging up their sewer system as more people cook at home during COVID-19.
The problem is that many of us just simply don’t know how to get rid of cooking oil safely.
Should you simply include it in the trash? Will the garbage collection take it?
Here we offer you some tips on how to dispose of cooking oil properly.
How Can I Dispose Of Cooking Oil?
Try the following cooking oil disposal method:
1. Cool it before you handle it. Cooled cooking oil is much easier and safer to work with. If you prefer to deal with solid waste rather than liquid waste, put the grease in your freezer.
2. Avoid using plastic bags when getting this stuff out of the house. Plastic bags can break easily and cause a mess down the line, especially if there are large quantities of waste inside them. Use a non-breakable, sealable container instead (an old plastic bottle can work).
3. Put the sealed container with the cooking oil in it into your food waste bin.
To turn it even more into solid waste, mix it with an absorbent substance like flour, sawdust, or cat litter. Store this in a sealable container for disposal.
People try to discharge their oil and grease properly, but over time, you can get a fair amount of oil and grease from washing pots, pans, and dishware. The cumulative impact could be substantial.
Joel Ducoste, Wastewater Treatment Expert
After pouring out the oil, remember to wipe down your cookware with a rag before washing it with water.
Now, a little bit about paper towels: Some people's instinct is to use a sheet of paper towel to wipe away the oil since it's more convenient, but we actually don't recommend that.
This is because paper towels are no longer recyclable once they've been contaminated with food grease. The paper towel industry hasn't always been the greenest industry either. You can read all about it in our article on How to Stop Using Paper Towels.
Now, back to cooking oil. Another way that you can dispose of it is by looking for local waste collection centers in your area who will accept cooking oil and turn it into biofuel. You can also choose to use it again for food — we’ll cover this in the next section.
What Can I Do With Old Cooking Oil?
Knowing how to dispose of cooking oil also means knowing how to use it for something else. Try these methods:
It’s possible to reuse oil 2 or 3 times, as long as it still smells okay. However, take note that its smoking point lowers each time. While you can’t reuse the same cooking oil forever, you might as well get some good use out of it when making fried foods.
Make Soap From It
In case you didn’t know, soap is usually made from fat. As such, making soap from used cooking oil can be a great way to reuse it without just pouring it down the drain or tossing it in the trash.
Add It To Your Compost
Used cooking oil can be recycled into your compost heap, and earthworms and small creatures will love it. Make sure though that it was used for cooking plant-based products — if it was used to fry meat, you could end up with raccoons, rats, skunks, and other pests in your compost pit.
Use It As Non-Toxic Pesticide
If your favorite plant is being berated by insects, reuse oil by putting it in a spray bottle and lightly spraying your plants with it on a humid day. This will kill insects and/or deter them from coming back again.
Help Turn It Into Biodiesel
Used cooking oil can be used as biodiesel  — something increasingly common among restaurants in the US, who are donating their used oil and grease to biofuel companies. You can try doing the same thing that those restaurants are doing.
What Do We Mean By Cooking Oil?
To be clear, cooking oil is a plant-based or animal-based oil or fat that is used to cook fried foods, whether they’re french fries or tempura.
Common cooking oils in the US include vegetable oil, canola oil, olive oil, corn oil, sesame oil, lard, butter, and bacon fat.
Whether they come from plants, animals, or a combination of the two, these oils and greases are commonly used in a wide range of cuisines in and out of the US.
Making soap from used cooking oil can be a great way to reuse it without just pouring it down the drain or tossing it in the trash.
Why Is Discarding Cooking Oil A Problem?
Discarding cooking oil is a problem because of several factors highlighted by the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD):
You can use these Compostable Trash Bags from Second Nature Bags specifically for that purpose.
They're heavy-duty and 100% compostable, which means that you can toss them into your compost pile together with the discarded cooking oil without worrying about the oil spilling and causing a mess all over your house.
After that, you can rest easy knowing that they will completely biodegrade in your compost within 26 weeks.
These leak-proof, unscented bags are also made with renewable, bio-based materials.
Some of these materials are sugarcane, plant-starches, and — coincidentally — vegetables oils (!) so folks who have a sensitivity to plastics and toxins will have no problem using them.
These Second Nature Bags come in 13-gallon, 7-gallon, and 3-gallon sizes to accommodate different sizes of trash cans you may have in your home.
If you need something smaller, we can recommend getting these 100% Compostable Sandwich Ziplock Bags from WRAPOK instead.
They're highly durable and can be reused as much as 6 times (maybe even more).
Tip: To get the most out of them, use them several times to store fruits, vegetables, or snacks first, then use them one last time as a trash bag for your used cooking oil.
And since they're made from plant extracts and contain no polyethylene at all, you'll know that they'll easily break down in the composter without you having to do any extra effort on your part.
Other compostable trash bags that you can try are these Primode 100% Compostable Bags and these Green Earth Compostable Biodegradable Tall Kitchen Trash Bags.
Where Can I Dispose Of Used Cooking Oil?
You can dispose of used cooking oil or grease properly at specialized sites. Please consult the Green Directory, a nationwide search engine for recycling centers.
Just go to "Green Directory" at the top of this page, enter “cooking oil” and your zip code to find the drop-off recycling locations closest to you.
The Green Directory can find recycling centers for many household items, including grease.
You can dispose of frying oil by taking it to a local recycling center that accepts used cooking oil. If you can’t do that, store it in a sealed non-breakable container first before tossing it in the trash.
Yes, you can dispose of cooking oil in the garden for compost, but it should have been used to fry plant-based foods. If it was used to fry meat, it may attract rats, raccoons, and other pests, so just bear that in mind.
Yes, you can put cooking oil in the bin. But you should cool it down first and store it in a sealed non-breakable container (not a plastic bag!) so it won’t leak in the garbage.
You can dispose of expired vegetable oil by tossing it in the trash in a sealed non-breakable container. You can also take it down to a local waste center that accepts grease. This is the most responsible method for disposing of cooking oil.
No, you can’t pour vegetable oil down the drain — the grease will clog up the pipes or cause problems at the local wastewater mains for your area. Reuse it instead or store it in a sealed non-breakable container before you toss it in the trash.
When you pour oil down the sink, the sink will get clogged up as the grease starts to solidify. This can cause your kitchen pipes or the local wastewater mains to overflow, which can be hazardous to our health and the environment.
No, you can’t dump grease down the toilet. If you do, it will clog up your pipeline when the grease solidifies.
You should throw out frying oil after you’ve reused it 2 or 3 times. However, if it smells okay and is still burning hot enough for you, then reusing it a couple of more times should be fine.
From reusing to composting and making biofuel, there are so many inventive ways to get rid of cooking oil and old grease responsibly.
So, next time you’re about to pour cooking oil away in your kitchen, think again. There are many eco-friendly recycle centers and biodiesel companies who would love to put your cooking oil or kitchen grease to good use. You can find them all by using our Green Directory.
We hope you now know how to dispose of cooking oil responsibly!
If you want to read more articles on green living, check out our blog here.
Looking for products that can help you store or reuse your cooking oil? Find them in our Green Store.
Alan Lipton, GreenCitizen’s writer/editor, firmly believes in the company’s mission to make every day Earth Day. His background in educational nonprofits, health literacy podcasts, experiential marketing, and storytelling helps him shape GreenCitizen’s message. Alan also writes fiction and songs, performs music at farmers’ markets and open mics, and battles unwanted vegetation in the yard.