What to do with your used cooking oil

Quiz time. Can you put oil or grease down the drain if you mix in hot water and dish soap?

Although that is a popular idea for many people, that’s a negative here in Dallas. You should not dump any grease or oil down your drain. The oil and grease may make it through your pipes as a warm liquid but by the time it gets to the city’s pipes it’s ready to start clogging. The oil and grease solidifies into thick layers inside drainpipes causing a messy, smelly and costly clean up. This hardening and build up can create huge problems with our city’s infrastructure and our waste water treatment plants.

Richard Statser, a Supervisor at Dallas Water Utilities makes it clear, “Any grease, any used cooking oil, needs to go a different route rather than down the drain. So many people see the drain as a black hole, and it’s not. There’s a biological process at the end of the drain that we are trying to run efficiently as possible and we would prefer that any used cooking oil or grease not be put down the drain.”

If you can’t put it down the drain, then what should you do with that gunk?

With some chemistry knowledge, the right equipment and a steady supply of vegetable oil, you could start making your own biodiesel in your garage. There are several do-it-yourself websites and biodiesel kits available to make cheap fuel for your diesel vehicle. But without a substantial supply of a high quality cooking oil (without water and not too acidic), this option really isn’t feasible.

Luckily in Dallas, there is an easy way to recycle your used cooking oil. Through the “Cease the Grease” program you can drop off your used cooking oil to be turned into energy to help our Southside water treatment plant run more efficiently. Cease the Grease is a City of Dallas initiative to educate the community about proper grease disposal to help protect our homes, businesses and environment from the nasty effects of Sanitary Sewer Overflows (SSOs). Of the 25 drop off locations around town, there’s one located downtown at the Dallas Farmers Market and at all of the Whole Foods in the area. Find your closest drop off location at ceasethegrease.org.

The oil you drop off is placed into huge biodigesters to produce methane gas that is used to power the waste water treatment plant. Last year, Cease the Grease collected about 4,500 gallons of oil to help subsidize the energy needed to process about 50 million gallons of waste water per day. The impact of the energy saved may be small but the impact of the oil not clogging the infrastructure is huge.

But Cease the Grease doesn’t want your grease, they want your oil. The grease such as animal fats, butter and sauces needs to be disposed of in the trash and not in your drain. The garbage disposal is not a black hole for grease either. This type of waste can be used to make biodiesel as well but the city is not currently equipped to take the animal products. Do your best to separate the hard grease from the oil before dropping off.

Used oil is a valuable resource that shouldn’t be dumped down our drains or into our landfills. Used oil can seep through landfill liners contaminating ground water supplies and waterways. Small amounts of oil can threaten aquatic life, such as plankton and algae, vital to maintaining these ecosystems. Next time you have an empty jar, save it for your oil. In just a few weeks or months, depending on your oil use, you’ll be making a substantial contribution to recycling this resource.

Statser reminds everyone to, “Be diligent and continuing to not pour grease and used cooking oil down the drain.”  The more oil that goes into the recycling program, the more efficient our waste water treatment plant will be and the better for our environment.

Drop off your used cooking oil at one of 25 locations around town, including this one located at the Dallas Farmers Market. 


As seen in the Katy Trail Weekly.

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