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How to Dispose of Used Cooking Grease

Updated on May 10, 2017
Beth Eaglescliffe profile image

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

Frying Fatty Meat Produces Surplus Grease

Frying and roasting fatty meats like bacon and ham produce a lot of grease.
Frying and roasting fatty meats like bacon and ham produce a lot of grease. | Source

Deep Fat Frying and Food Safety - USDA Advice

You intend to reuse cooking oil
Strain it through a fine-weave cloth (e.g. muslin or cheesecloth) or sieve
How to store used cooking oil
Use a sealed, light-proof conatiner. Store for max 3 months and keep refrigerated
If oil is clouded or has a foul odor, taste, or smell
DISCARD IT and do not use
The safest way to dispose of used cooking oil
Pour into a sealable metal container and throw the oil-filled container in the trash.
Check for recycle oil drop-off points in your area
Could be used to make biodiesel fuel or soap
Advice from United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service

Used Cooking Grease and Oil

Frying and broiling (or grilling) food often results in left-over used cooking grease. The temptation is to pour it away down the kitchen sink. Stop! You should never do this as hardened fats can cause blocked drains. They will also interfere with the natural bacterial decomposition process of a septic tank.

You should not put cooking oil, fats and grease into a compost bin either as they will attract vermin and flies. The best solution to this oily problem is to follow the maxim “Reduce, reuse, recycle.”

US EPA Recycling Progress Data

We're recycling and composting a lot more than 30 years ago, but we can still do better. More than 60% of our trash still ends up in landfills or burned for energy recovery, when much of it can be reduced, reused, recycled, or composted.
We're recycling and composting a lot more than 30 years ago, but we can still do better. More than 60% of our trash still ends up in landfills or burned for energy recovery, when much of it can be reduced, reused, recycled, or composted. | Source

1. Reduce Cooking Fat and Eat More Healthily

When cooking use as little oil or fat as possible. Use just enough oil to prevent the 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 of oil. It is healthier for you to have less fat in your cooked food.

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.

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 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.

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 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

Animal and Bird Feed Using Recycled Cooking Grease

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 really 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.

Birds Enjoy Fat Balls in Winter


How to Make a Fat Ball for Garden Birds

Store your waste fats and oils in closed containers until fall. Take a disposable plastic cup or other mold to make your bird feeder. Before putting any grease in your mold, hold a piece of string or wire in the center of the mold. This will be used to attach your finished fat ball to a branch or bird feeder pole.

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 the used melted grease or waste cooking oil over the seeds. The fat binds the seeds together into a ball (or whatever the shape of your mold is). 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. Cut away and remove the plastic cup (or mold). Hang your seeded fat ball from a convenient branch and watch the birds enjoy their winter treat.


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