Can I Recycle Turkey Fryer Oil?

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Pouring your used oil down the drain may not seem like a big deal, but it can wreak havoc on the environment and local sewage systems. Photo: Flickr/jakesmome

The deep fried turkey is growing in popularity as a new twist on a classic Thanksgiving staple. But disposing of three to five gallons of used fryer oil can be a day-after nightmare.

While it may seem harmless to pour your used oil down the drain, dumping any amount of cooking oil into the sink can harm wildlife and damage local sewage systems. Grease clings to pipe walls in small particles that latch on to each other, leading to massive clogs over time – and not just in your kitchen sink.

Cooking oil and kitchen grease from residents and restaurants is the No. 1 cause of clogged sewer pipes, which costs cities big bucks. Water companies in the U.K. currently spend £15 million each year clearing used cooking oil from their sewers, and San Francisco clocks its cleanup tally at a whopping $3.5 million per year.

Whether it’s a cup of olive oil from last Friday’s dinner or the leftovers from your deep-fried Thanksgiving, recycling is your best disposal bet.

Options will vary depending on where you call home. A simple Web search with your city or county name and the words “recycle used cooking oil” should yield upcoming collection events in your area. Or use Earth911 to find a year-round solution near you.

While the EPA does not classify used cooking oil as household hazardous waste (HHW), some municipalities offer year-round cooking oil recycling at local HHW facilities, including San Francisco and Flagstaff, Ariz. Other localities offer drop-off programs around food-related holidays, like Thanksgiving, or partner with biofuel or biodiesel companies to transform holiday cooking oil into alternative fuel, like Columbia, S.C.. So, take advantage of similar programs when they’re offered in your area.

Most recyclers only accept clean oil in sealed containers. If you’re planning to recycle your oil, be careful not to accidentally mix in any water or soap suds – as these can contaminate the recycled product.

Designate a container for used oil before starting your turkey-fry, and carefully transfer oil immediately after it has cooled. Seal the container immediately and drop off as soon as possible to avoid spoilage. And it’s important to strain out any leftover food bits before recycling your oil. This may sound a little gross. But trust us, it’s better than a clogged (and smelly) kitchen drain.

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