Cooking oil comes from plants, yet it is difficult to return to the environment in an eco-friendly way. Because of the consistency of the liquid, canola, vegetable, corn, olive, avocado and other oils can create an oily coating on plants, which restricts oxygen intake. It also has a negative effect on animals too.
Even if you choose a type of cooking oil that is better for your body, getting rid of it creates challenges. The solution to the problem depends heavily on where you live and what resources are available in the region. Here are some of our methods.
Don’t dump cooking oil down the drain
For starters, understand where you shouldn’t get rid of cooking oil. Never dispose of it down the sink or toilet drain. There are several reasons for this, starting with the fact that oil can and will clog drains within your home’s plumbing. It can happen quickly or take awhile to accumulate, but eventually the build up will affect water flow.
After the oils are flushed out of your home, they either go into a septic tank or are diverted to a local treatment plant. Not all particles are filtered out at the plant, resulting in the greasy substance being released back into the path of plants and animals that need fresh water.
Reuse the oil
Some people are surprised to find cooking oil can be used multiple times. Choose a storage container. Glass jars work well. After cooling the oil, filter and hold onto it for next time. For deep frying foods like meat or fish, you can reuse the oil up to four times. For lighter foods, such as potatoes, you may get up to eight uses out of the same oil.
However you decide to dispose of your oil, make sure it is completely cooled before sending it away. You can freeze oil to make the process less messy or save it for later use. Even putting it into the fridge or outside on a hot pod during cold weather will drop the temperature for proper disposal.
In many areas, the garbage can is the best, and perhaps only, place to get rid of cooking oil. Rather than simply pouring used cooking oil directly into the garbage, however, corral it in a non-recyclable container. If you don’t have a location to return plastic film, such as grocery and bread bags, you can use those bags to collect the oil. You’ll need to be careful not to puncture the plastic and double-bagging is a good idea. You can also use non-recyclable milk cartons, broth containers or other vessels that seal tightly.
Local restaurants, fire stations or recycling centers
Connect locally to see what restaurants in your area are doing with their oil waste. Some may be recycling through a service that converts it into oil for other uses, such as fueling cars.
Also check in with a nearby fire department. In many areas, the fire department coordinates recycling cooking oil, as well as other hard-to-recycle items around the house.
Your local waste disposal company is another resource. Give them a call to ask about options. Even if they don’t provide a regular drop-off location or curbside pickup service, they may have an option a few times each year in conjunction with chemical roundup events.
Some say adding cooking oil to the compost bin will make worms and insects happy. Others say it will attract unwanted animals, especially if the oil was used to cook fragrant meats. There does seem to be a balance where small amounts of plant-based oils benefit the compost ecosystem. To be safe, only add oils that were used to cook vegetables and other non-animal foods. Also, add oil to the compost in moderation. Too much oil will create a layer that stifles out oxygen in the mixture.
Create solid waste
Part of the reason oils are challenging to dispose of is simply because they are so messy. You can combine the oils with other waste materials around your home, however, to result in solid waste that is easier for you and waste management professionals to deal with.
Before tossing your oil, mix it with absorbent materials such as sawdust. You can also mix it with other kitchen waste like flour. If you have cats, dump the used oil into the kitty litter when it’s time for a cleanout. The same goes for guinea pig or rabbit cages. Sand makes another nice absorbing-material option.
Make soap out of it
Soap relies on fat, so it makes sense you can include high-fat cooking oils in the soap recipe. You’ll want to purify dirty oil before adding it to the mix, but blending in olive, soybean, avocado, almond and other oils provides you a way to recycle it and save money on soap-making supplies. It also keeps used cooking oil out of the garbage can and the landfill.
Make an insecticide
The same reason that oil can limit oxygen and suffocate animals makes it an ideal ingredient in insecticides. Combined with soap and water, oil helps prevent insects from ruining crop development.
While you might find yourself dealing with used cooking oil from time to time, you can collect small amounts for an extended period before finding the best way to dispose of it.
An even better approach is to limit the amount of oil you use in the first place. Avoid oil waste by using an air fryer, baking goods or cooking on the grill instead.
Images via Pexels