How to Recycle Cooking Oil
We use cooking oil to prepare everything from Thanksgiving turkey to sauteed vegetables to salad dressing. But considering it poses havoc to drains and our sewage pipes, you want to avoid pouring it down the drain.
Cooking Oil Recycling Preparation
- Designate a container in your house for used cooking oil. Metal coffee cans or plastic butter containers work great, but make sure it’s labeled so no one accidentally drinks it. You don’t need to keep it refrigerated unless you want to reuse it.
- Keep filling the container with new oil each time you cook. Don’t worry about draining any fats or combining different types of oil, but try to remove any large pieces of meat or produce.
- Use our Recycling Locator to see if there is a recycling location for cooking oil in your area. They may only be available during the holiday season.
- If no option exists, call your local fire department to see if used oil is accepted.
- If recycling is not available in your community, seal your cooking oil container and dispose in the garbage.
Why Recycle Cooking Oil
- If you pour greasy oil down the drain, it will solidify and eventually block your pipes or cause damage to your city’s sanitation pipes
- Cooking oil can be refined into biofuel that burns clean in most diesel engines
- If you own/work at a restaurant or have access to a large amount of cooking oil, you can get paid by commercial oil recyclers for the product
Frequent Cooking Oil Recycling Questions
There are a handful of curbside programs in the U.S. that accept cooking oil at the curb, but you’ll have to call for a special collection. If your community accepts used cooking oil, make sure you are putting it in an approved container.
If your community doesn’t accept oil at the curb, there’s likely a drop-off spot or special collection set up between Thanksgiving and New Year’s to accommodate the extra cooking during the holidays.
A simple internet or phone book search for cooking oil buyers will find you local companies that will collect and pay for used cooking oil. These companies only buy in bulk, though, so unless you work at a commercial kitchen, you likely will not qualify.
The cooking oil recycling process depends on where the oil is sent. If it goes to a processor, the anaerobic digestion process will break down the oil and any other organic ingredients without oxygen into a gas that can be used as alternative energy. If it’s sent to a biodiesel plant, it is filtered and processed into fuel that can be burned in most diesel engines, like trucks.
Yes, as well as butter. You also don’t need to worry about using separate containers for each type of oil.
No, but pouring it down the drain could cost you some money in pipe repairs. In a recent study of nearly 36,000 sewer overflows in the U.S., 47 percent were caused by fat and oil clogs. You probably don’t want to pay for a plumber on Thanksgiving.
As a rule of thumb, you want to keep non-organic material out of your compost pile. So, if you are using oil to cook pasta and vegetables, you could take the chance. Any fats and animal products are not going to break down at the temperature you generate in a home pile. Most curbside compost programs will ask that you exclude cooking oil.
In this case, we’re talking about deep frying where you could use up to 5 gallons of oil per meal. While you can reuse oil one or two times, you’ll want to make sure to drain any extra products in the oil, refrigerate it in a container, refrain from mixing different types of oil and check that the oil doesn’t look cloudy or foamy when you’re ready to reuse.
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- Cheat Sheet: Biofuel: An overview of how cooking oils are converted into biodiesel and other fuels
- Cooking Oil, Grease to Power London Neighborhood: One of the world’s largest cities has built a facility to process used oil into residential energy