On my way back to my dorms yesterday, I stepped in what I thought was a puddle of water and promptly slipped across the Memorial Coliseum tarmac. On closer inspection, it wasn’t water but a viscous brown/gray liquid oozing its way to freedom from an upturned bucket on the adjacent sorority’s lawn.
“What is this stuff?” I questioned a woman sitting on the steps.
“Just cooking oil,” she replied, and then launched into a lament about how much it sucked that she wasn’t provided with an adequate waste disposal system like the nearby restaurants. That raised the question, what are we supposed to be doing with our oil?
The simple consensus: don’t empty it down the drain. As the Lexington government plasters on their page, “FOG CLOGS” – fat, oil and grease – solidify to cause “sanitary sewer overflows.”
Personally, I’ve been carrying some guilt surrounding this subject. Once or twice, I poured my canola oil down the drain post-cooking and feigned innocence when the pipes backed up (dorm mates, I apologize).
The Lexington government recommends letting the oil solidify and throwing it out in a sealed container or wiping down pots and pans with paper towels before washing them. While this keeps oil from the water system, it also produces more waste (unless you have non-recyclable containers that you need to dispose of anyway). In the effort of reducing waste as much as possible, here are some alternative options.
Re-use it. If you used your cooking oil to fry vegetables or potatoes, you can reuse it once or twice before it goes rancid. This site has more tips for this, such as straining it through a coffee filter.
Store it for annual drop off at the Black Friday Grease Gobbler. It recycled 400 gallons of oil in 2017.
Compost – in small quantities. Vegetable oil and canola oil can be composted in small quantities, so it’s OK to chuck those paper towels that you wiped a pan with in with your compost.
Weed Killer. Once again, small quantities in key here, but filling a spray bottle with oil and dousing garden invaders is a good way to re-purpose.
Cooking oil can be refined into bio fuel that burns clean in most diesel engines
Harden oil in the refrigerator before tossing it out in a non-recyclable container like a milk bottle.
Used motor oil can be picked up by Safety-Kleen, the largest closed-loop system re-refiner of used automobile oil in North America. Call 1-800-323-5040 for pick up options in Lexington.
Personally, I’m a bit disappointed in the collection options that Lexington has (read: none). Hopefully, with more awareness will come the demand for better disposal infrastructure and biofuel synthesis options in the future.