How to Dispose of Used Cooking Oil and Grease

Updated on November 10, 2018
Beth Eaglescliffe profile image

Science graduate and business advisor, health educator and author, Beth writes on a wide variety of subjects.

Disposal of Used Cooking Oil and Meat Grease

Frying and broiling (or grilling) food creates used cooking grease. You may be tempted to pour it down the kitchen sink. This is a bad idea as hardened fats cause blocked drains. If you are in any doubt about the scale of the problem fat causes in sewers, take a look at the video below.

Do not be tempted to put old grease into your compost bin as it will attract vermin and flies. Waste oils also interfere with the natural bacterial decomposition processes of septic tanks. All liquefied fat, oil, and grease (known as FOGs for short) should be treated in one of the ways described in this article.

What can you do with used oil from French fries?
What can you do with used oil from French fries? | Source

1. Be Eco-Friendly and Reduce the Amount of Fat Used

When cooking use as little oil or fat as possible. Both you and the environment will benefit. Use just enough oil to prevent food from sticking to the pan, but not enough to drown it. You can buy spray cans of cooking oil that allow you to use just a tiny amount. It is healthier for you to have less fat in your cooked food and there is less chance of your drains becoming clogged.

If there is a small amount of grease left in the pan or on the grill after cooking then wipe it up with some paper kitchen towel. That way you can dispose if it in the general garbage rather than letting it join your detergent-filled dishwasher waste water down the drain.

5 Tips For Recycling Used Cooking Fat, Oils, and Grease

  1. To reuse cooking oil, first strain it through a fine-weave cloth (e.g. muslin or cheesecloth) or sieve it.
  2. Store used cooking oil in a sealed, light-proof container. Store fats for no more than three months and always keep them cool and refrigerated.
  3. If the oil or fat becomes clouded or has a foul odor, taste, or smell, DISCARD IT and do not use.
  4. The safest way to dispose of used cooking oil is to pour it into a sealable metal container and throw the oil-filled container in the trash.
  5. Check for recycle oil drop-off points in your area. Recycling companies can convert it into biodiesel fuel and soap.

The above advice is from the US Department of Agriculture (Food Safety and Inspection Service) for the safe disposal of used cooking oils and fats.

2. Filter Cooking Grease and Reuse

To reuse cooking oil and grease you need to clean it (to remove any bits of food in it). This can be done by filtering the oil through a fine fabric like muslin, cheese-cloth or a paper towel.

USDA (the US Department of Agriculture) recommends that reclaimed cooking oil is stored in the fridge and should be used within three months. Sieve the grease using a fine muslin or cheesecloth strainer. Place the bits (burnt lumps and other nasties) that are left in the sieve into a grease disposal bag and then into your normal trash.

The video below shows a cheap way to make a fat filter using absorbent kitchen towels. However, in the long run this method works our more expensive than using a cheesecloth strainer. Kitchen towels can be used only once, whereas a muslin strainer can be washed and used over and over again and is a more eco-friendly option.

How to Clean and Recycle Your Cooking Oil

3. Recycle Grease

There are several uses for recycled cooking fat. The main commercial ones are converting it into vehicle fuel for trucks or using it as a supplementary animal feed. For example, in US, Walmart runs 15 trucks around Phoenix, Arizona on transport fuel made from recycling used cooking oil from its store restaurants.

As an individual householder, you are unlikely to be paid for the small amount that you recycle, but you will be helping the environment by recycling your used grease. You will also be helping your municipality minimize its waste disposal costs. The website Earth911.com has a useful search facility to help you find locations of used cooking oil drop-off points in your area.

For commercial recyclers, like restaurants and take-away premises, selling their used cooking oil can bring useful extra revenue. It has become so valuable that (as the following video shows) it has become a target for thieves to steal.

Used Grease Theft in Kansas City

Recycle Grease Into Animal and Bird Feed

Some people have told me that they pour their excess cooking fat into their pet dog’s feeding bowl. Others have said they add the grease to food they leave out for feral cats. If you want to do this you should check first with your veterinarian that the grease is going to help and not harm that animal’s diet.

A better use for your used cooking oil and fats would be to make fat balls for garden birds. You can help wild birds survive a cold winter by feeding them. Use a combination of nuts, seeds and your waste cooking fat to make attractive feeders for them.

Fat balls help wild birds survive the winter.
Fat balls help wild birds survive the winter. | Source

How to Make a Fat Ball for Garden Birds

  1. Store waste fat and oil in closed containers until you are ready to make into bird treats.
  2. Use a disposable plastic cup to make the bird feeder. Before putting any grease into the mold, dangle a piece of string or wire in the center of the cup. This will form the holder to attach your finished fat ball to a branch or bird feeder pole.
  3. Pour bird seed around the string or wire until the mold is nearly full. Leave a space of about an inch at the top. Then pour used melted grease or waste cooking oil over the seeds. The fat binds the seeds together.
  4. Place the full mold in a cold place for the fat to harden. As the fat it expands and will fill up the gap you left at the top of the mold.
  5. Cut away and remove the plastic cup. Hang your seeded fat ball from a convenient branch and watch the birds enjoy their winter treat.

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