how do i recycle cooking oil?

Reader Joy asked, "Any suggestions for recalling cooking oil? I have been calling around Lafayette for the past year and no one can tell me how to dispose of it and I have like 3 gallons of it in my storage because I don’t know what to do with it."

First things first, why should you never pour grease and cooking oil down your sink drain? If you've seen grease and cooking oil a couple days later, you know that gross gel-ish solid form it turns into. You don't want that in your drains, and the sewer system doesn't need that.

When poured down the drain, used cooking oil solidifies into thick layers, constricting water flow inside drainpipes, similar to the way blood flows in arteries. Over time, clogged sewers result in unsanitary conditions, odors and damage to sewer pipes.

To dispose of cooking oil, pour the oil into an empty milk carton or an old, unrecyclable takeout container and toss it in the trash. When the pan is cool, wipe it with a paper towel to remove any excess grease.

But we're in the nature of being green around here ( it!? Okay, sorry), so let's see how individuals can reuse or recycle cooking oil in Louisiana.

One way to reduce the amount of cooking oil waste is to cut down on the source. Go for grilling or baking over frying, whether it's meat, seafood, veggies or fries. The less fat you start with, the less grease you end up having to dispose of later. AND, your food will be healthier.

You're probably looking at me like I have three heads. Yes, I know the fried food is good! The key is to compromise and start small.

The Nest features step-by-step directions on how to reuse your own cooking oil. After initial use, cooking oil can be refrigerated or frozen and reused for another six hours of cooking. However, don't reuse cooking oil if it smells rancid or you can't heat it without smoke developing, as this indicates significant deterioration.

Backyard Biodiesel is a Louisiana company that works to collect grease and used cooking oil and converts it to biodiesel for restaurants. They service Baton Rouge, New Orleans and surrounding areas. Unfortunately, they don't appear to service private homes. These companies, like Waste Oil Recyclers around Philadelphia, collect cooking oil from homes and businesses and keep them in specialized containers for converting to biodiesel.

East Baton Rouge Parish and West Baton Rouge Parish accept cooking oil at their Household Chemical Waste Collection days. From there, the parishes manage recycling and proper disposal.

For central Louisiana residents, Alexandria Iron and Supply buys used cooking oil. 

Have a compost pile? Old grease should not go in it! As a rule of thumb, fats and animal proteins should stay out of your home compost pile because most home piles do not get hot enough to break these materials down, leaving the pile susceptible to rotting.

The Lafayette Consolidated Government Environmental Quality office doesn't directly accept used cooking oil, but if you call 291-8529, they can help direct you to someone who can take it.

Of interesting note, some of Louisiana's restaurant used cooking oil is refined at a plant near Baton Rouge and trucked to New York's JFK airport. A blend of 25% cooking oil and 75% jet fuel is then used to power KLM flights to Amsterdam. The cooking oil fuel works just like regular jet fuel and doesn’t require any special handling by flight and maintenance crews. KLM has been using cooking oil-based fuel on passenger flights in Europe since September 2011.

Joy, good luck recycling your used cooking oil!

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