How to Dispose of Cooking Oil: Six Best Ways

For foodies who love flavor and texture, there are few dishes that do not call for some kind of cooking oil. Whether olive oil, peanut oil, grape seed oil or any other variety, this condiment adds richness, flavor, and aroma to meals. For all of the benefits, however, pouring used oil down the drain is unwise. Plumbers recount horror stories where they remove obscene amounts of solidified grease in order to unclog pipes. Fortunately, alternative means of disposal are available.

bottle pouring cooking oil

1. Out with the Trash

Sadly, the presence of a garbage disposal does not mitigate the damage done by grease to water conduits. The very texture so beloved by gourmets creates havoc in the pipes, even penetrating into sewer networks and causing what Crain’s New York Business referred to as “the municipal equivalent of cardiac arrest.” The problem is so acute that the City of New York launched a massive public outreach campaign to educate residents on the long-term damage done by the improper dumping of oil and grease.

How to dispose of cooking oil is not a complicated procedure. For one thing, used oil can be treated like garbage—for the trash can rather than the disposal. Allowing it to cool in non-recyclable vessels (first at room temperature and then, perhaps, in the refrigerator) and dropping it in a receptacle simply mucks up your refuse with no collateral consequences. To be sure, of all the materials and substances that wind up in landfills, grease is among the least environmentally objectionable.

2. Recycling: Not Just for Bottles and Cans

Before pondering how to dispose of cooking oil, cooks do well to consider using it again…and maybe again. This is by no means a novel or weird alternative. In fact, during times of war and economic distress, such a practice was commonplace since rationing was often necessary. Yet a caveat or two are worth observing: strain the used oil with cheesecloth to remove any solids and 2) store in the refrigerator or freezer. Bacteria can quickly invade without taking these precautions.

  • strain the used oil with cheesecloth to remove any solids;
  • store in the refrigerator or freezer. Bacteria can quickly invade without taking these precautions.

Recycling cooking oil can also be a community enterprise. Many counties and localities across the United States operate recycling centers with designated drop-off locations for cooking oil. Each publishes instructions for appropriate containers and sealing. Important to remember, however, is that the vast majority accept only those oils that are liquid at room temperature, prohibiting shortening and coconut oil for example. In many cases, an attendant is on site to inspect the deposit and provide information as needed.

3. Free Enterprise: A Seller’s Market

Believe it or not, there are people out there willing to buy your grease. While the ultimate aim here is also recycling, the difference is that you can do it through a middleman and make a few dollars in so doing. Why would anyone want to pay for used cooking oil? As it turns out, this discarded condiment has proved to be an essential ingredient in the formulation of bio-fuels.

For-profit and non-profit entities have popped up in recent years to fill a niche, serving restaurants in particular. As most biodiesel is made up of soybean and vegetable oils, as well as animal fat and grease—intrepid businesspeople have paid food service vendors regular albeit modest remuneration for waste vegetable oil. The formula is an old one: buy low and sell high. About 50 percent more expensive than petroleum-based diesel, bio-fuels reflect higher production costs, payments to wholesalers among them. It is one more option in how to dispose of cooking oil.

oil in a pan

4. Piling On: The Benefits of Compost

Maintaining a compost heap has its advantages. First of all, it reduces the mass of fallen leaves, fruit rinds, vegetable peels and grass clippings. If manure is present, the other elements tend to neutralize its odor. Applying compost to gardens and crops is known to suppress root and plant diseases. Best of all, composting answers the question of how to dispose of cooking oil. While it is best to apply only small amounts at a time, cooking oil can mesh with a compost heap as long as the pile is consistently aerated and mixed well. Again, keep the additions small or they will draw vermin to the heap. Also, try re-using the oil before composting.

5. Good for Food, Bad for Weeds

Those gardeners with an aversion to chemical herbicides need to look no further than their used saucepans. Vegetable oils are biodegradable, and will be deconstructed by soil bacteria. In the meantime, they will coat the weeds, dehydrate them and, in effect, smother them. Mixing the oil with vinegar or soap helps to make it more usable. Vinegar serves this purpose, too. At any rate, it pragmatically answers the challenge of how to dispose of cooking oil.

6. All-Purpose Lubricant

For those who are handy around the house, consider used cooking oil over WD-40 as your go-to lubricant. It is effective for making locks more responsive to keys, for example. In addition, it coats garden spades and shovels to reduce sticking. Spraying it on the car’s grill, tires and hub caps is a good way to keep out dirt, dust, bugs and other debris that tends to stick and clog up the works. Clocks, musical instruments, power tools and other appliances can all run smoother with an informed treatment of cooking oil to the mechanical components. These uses may not be the first things that come to mind when thinking about how to dispose of cooking oil. They are, in any case, effective employments of a culinary ingredient.

oil bubbles in water

Keeping cooking oil from the plumbing not only protects the household pipes, but also sewer lines and septic systems. The blockages caused by congealed fats can be easily avoided by cooks knowledgeable in how to dispose of cooking oil. With its many alternative uses, this condiment has several beneficial destinations other than the drain. For the sake of running water, those options are well worth considering.

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