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How to Dispose of Used Cooking Grease

Updated on July 8, 2017
Beth Eaglescliffe profile image

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

Cooking French Fries Results in Used Oil

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Deep Fat Frying and Food Safety - USDA Advice

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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 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. These waste oils can also interfere with the natural bacterial decomposition processes of septic tanks.

Do not be tempted to put old grease into your compost bin either as it will attract vermin and flies. FOGs (liquefied fat, oil, and grease) should be treated in one of the ways described below.

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.

Fried Eggs Are Healthier if Cooked With Less Fat

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 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

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 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.

The grease problems cause backups in the sewers that will cause blockages. That can impact the way the sewer works. In worst case conditions, it can sometimes lead to backups in homes.

We’ve spent several million dollars a year on what we call degreasing. To give you some frame of reference, it costs about $20 a gallon for the degreasing agent that we use, and we use sometimes as much as 20 or 30 gallons.

— Jim Roberts, New York City Department of Environmental Protection

Fat Balls Help Wild Birds Survive the Winter

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