How to Dispose of Cooking Oil?

Cooking OIl Bottles
Cooking OIl Bottles

Cooking with oil, be it olive, canola or sunflower, is a quick and easy way to add flavor to your dinner creations. However, one of the side effects of frying, especially deep-frying, food is that there is usually a lot of leftover oil in the pan, and this byproduct needs to be disposed of properly. The tempting thing for many cooks is to simply dump it down the drain and through the garbage disposal with the rest of the waste, but not only can this take a heavy toll on your plumbing, resulting in blockages, but it is also a hazard to the environment. One liter of oil can contaminate up to one million liters of water, forming a thin membrane that prevents oxygenation of the water. So what is a responsible cook to do? Here are a few tips that will allow you to cook with oil and dispose of it, too.

Disposing of Cooking Oil:

1) For safety, always allow oil to cool completely for disposal. Heated oil can be unpredictable when poured, so it is better to wait a while before attempting the disposal.

2) You should pour the oil into a sealable container. Plastic is better than glass, simply because it is not breakable. Again, be certain that the oil is cool before pouring it, especially into plastic.

3) If you have only a small amount of oil, you can simply dispose of the waste along with your regular garbage. Be certain that the container is sealed properly before putting it in the trash. If you have a large amount of oil, you will need to take the container to the nearby landfill. However, some areas prohibit the disposal of cooking oil in landfills. Be sure to check the regulations of your town or county before taking material to the landfill. There can also be heavy fines associated with dumping unapproved materials.

Reusing Cooking Oil:

However, another option to consider is recycling or reusing the oil. Many cooking oils can be used several times for frying, with satisfying results. If you want to reuse your cooking oil, follow the following steps.

1) As with disposing of the oil, make sure that the oil has completely cooled.

2) Strain the oil through cheesecloth and into a sealable container. This will remove any food particles leftover from the frying.

3) Store the oil in a cool, dark place.

Recycling Cooking Oil:

If you reuse the oil several times, and still have waste to dispose of, consider the following ideas for recycling, rather than trashing, the oil.

1) Many restaurants have grease bins where leftover oil is collected. These restaurants donate the oil to various companies or individuals who recycle the oil into consumer products.

2) With the rising cost of fuel, many automobile drivers are converting their cars to run on biodiesel. Cooking oil can serve as the foundation for manufacturing this fuel. Again, you can donate your oil to restaurants that have pledged to donate their oil to these companies, or contact biodiesel manufacturers directly.

3) Finally, cooking oil is an organic material. If you have created a compost station at your home, or plan to, cooking oil can be added in alongside any other organic waste such as leaves, vegetables, fruits, etc.

Cooking with oil can be a very enjoyable experience for both the chef and the consumer. And with a little effort you will be able to cook with, and dispose of, this material properly.


Author: Neil

Neil Wardlow has been writing professionally since 1989. Neil discovered he enjoyed writing when he suffered an injury during his 15-year building construction career. Neil now writes full-time, whenever he’s not occupied with entertaining family and friends, growing things, or making repairs in and around his beautiful ranch house.

13 thoughts on “How to Dispose of Cooking Oil?”

  1. I have never had lobster, its seems awful greasy covered in butter and thats not a great used cooking oil solution.

    1. Hulsey2, would you care to clarify your comment for us? I have no idea what point you were trying to make. I have never eaten lobster tail either, and cooking it in butter does make it seem like it would turn out a bit greasy. But what are you referring to when you say that it doesn’t make a great solution for the re-use of cooking oil?

  2. This was an informative article, Neil.  I totally agree with you about how harmful grease build up can be to a home’s plumbing!  Up until recently, most cooks probably never fretted about what was the “proper” way of disposing of cooking oil.  But in the past, most cooks typically kept a “grease” can or jar in the kitchen and did re-use the oil for frying up other tasty meals.  It was partially due to not being able to pour the grease/oil down the drain without clogging the drain.  However, it was also because re-using the oil saved the cook some hard-earned money.  The more you can use the same oil, then the less often you have to purchase new oil to perform the same task.

    One use for used cooking oil that you didn’t mention is that it can be used as a lubricant for sticky windows, as well as for other lubricant applications.  It can also be added to a dog’s food to give the pet’s meal a bit more flavor and make it  think it is getting human food instead of dog food.  Some used oils can also be used to make homemade furniture polish to help bring out the natural beauty of items made from wood.

    Also, another way to easily get the excess grease out of a pan is to let the pan cool off for a little while and then stick it in the freezer until the grease hardens.  Then just take a spoon or spatula and remove the hardened grease from the pan.  Put it in a ziploc bag, close the bag and throw it away.  It’s easy to finish cleaning any remaining grease out of the pan by wiping it with a paper towel.  Or you can just use an old newspaper, absorbent rag, or paper towels to soak up the oil and then seal the oil-soaked material in a plastic bag and throw the bag away.

    Hulsey2, would you care to clarify your comment for us?  I have no idea what point you were trying to make.  I have never eaten lobster tail either, and cooking it in butter does make it seem like it would turn out a bit greasy.  But what are you referring to when you say that it doesn’t make a great solution for the re-use of cooking oil?

  3. Step 3: Adding to compost is not such a great idea. From a SFGate article: “But pouring the oil into the compost bin isn’t necessarily the answer either. Darby Hoover, senior resource specialist for the Natural Resources Defense Council,
    says, ‘In home compost bins, cooking oils in quantity can attract
    animals.’ Oils also make it hard for oxygen to get through, which means
    your pile will probably become anaerobic rather than aerobic. She says
    that while anaerobic home compost will still break down eventually, ‘it
    takes longer and smells worse while it’s happening – you know it’s
    anaerobic if it’s slimy and smells.'”

    The article also recommends donating it for biofuel. Many cities have oil recycling programs set up for this purpose.

    1. Stephen, I agree with you that not all cooking oils would make good additives to the compost bin. Considering the current demand for more oil and biofuels, it does seem like a much better idea to recycle it the way you suggested.

  4. I what to ‘dispose’ of my cooking oil in a total enviromental ‘holistic’ manner.
    I can not stand the phrase that is FOREVER used ‘ throw it away’ or chuck it out or “discard it with regular garbage” what is ‘regular’ and do you care where it ends up?. When will everyone else realise each and every one is responsible for our OWN waste. anyway that is another topic, I don’t bring ‘garbage’ into my home so that way I don’t have to ‘dispose’ of it.
    I want to ‘dispose / reuse / cycle’ my cooking oil waste on my own property.
    The few litres I have (strained & stored in sealed glass jars, I can never bring myself to ‘reuse’ to cook) continuosly prompt me to find a better solution than taking up space in my kitchen. Adding to my ‘cold compost’ is a definate NO NO. Previously I burn it in my 44 gallon steel drum incinerator, now haveing served fabulosly over 15yrs has seen its last winter, it will be ‘cut down to size’ for a few more years use, & recycled on site,(I burn the bones from our meals , after I’ve reused by making stock, adding the spent cooking oil assists in the burning to ashes) . Today marks the start of our FireBan session, I should have burnt off the oil the other day when I lit the incinerator. I use the incinerator to make ash of materials that otherwise would take a LONG time to cold compost, its is envirometally friendly compared to the other alternatives. I use this method 2-3 times a year.
    I am keen to use the oil to dress the timber I have outside, thou due to ‘organic’ material in it I am aware that doing so can promote fungas/mold growth within the timber. How can I rid the cooking oil of this….

    1. Jmb, I applaud you for your efforts to be responsible for your own waste and to save the environment! From what I’ve been reading about cooking oil, it could indeed cause mold to grow on wood. For wood furniture polish, people use olive or lemon oil. As a wood stain or protective sealant, some people use synthetic motor oil.

    1. Cooking Oil disposal, there are definitely several great points made in this article. Not only does recycling cooking oil help the environment, it also saves on plumbing bills. Plus, it reduces the risk of mold building up in the pipes, thus providing a safer environment for the entire household.

  5. Awesome Neil! I dont use oil as much these days thanks to the practicality of healthier cooking & eating but as it is being collected I had a conscious thought to ask the question within a search engine towards a practical answer…and your link was the first I clicked on. The landfill thing isn’t as practical but is possible. Since I dont use as much cooking oil these days the idea I thought of was to collect the old oil by pouring into finished wine bottles, sake bottles or plastic juice containers and then when I’ve collected enough to prompt a trip to a landfill or restaurant, then I would feel better about my conscious decision not to clog up the water supply. I imagine in doing this my use of oil in cooking would probably diminish all together because Ive been limiting my car-driving experience to the very minimum. The scary thought is that I’m only one guy….when I think about how many people who wouldn’t remotely have the conscious thought of how to properly dispose of cooking oil….ignorance is bliss! Thanks again I’ll share on my fb page!

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