Responsible Deep Fryer Disposal: Why It Matters for the Environment

Deep fryer oil is hazardous waste. You may not think of it as such, but it can clog sewers, harm aquatic animals and waterfowl, and even make it to groundwater or sewer systems if you pour it into a lawn. Everyone needs to be responsibly disposing of their used cooking oil. In some areas, it’s the law.

What Are the Portland, Oregon, Laws on Disposing of Your Used Cooking Oil?

In Portland and Lake Oswego, restaurants and food service industries must have grease interceptors installed in their kitchen. This is required for any person who:

  • Builds a new building
  • Redevelops existing buildings
  • Takes over a former restaurant or food service space
  • Upgrades their current restaurant or food service business

As it’s harder for wastewater treatment plants to treat water that contains high levels of fats, oils, and grease (FOG), restaurants and food service industries pay increased sewer fees. By removing FOG from the wastewater you send to a sewer line, you can save money. These fees are based on the concentration of FOG. In addition to saving money, you might not realize you’re also protecting the environment.

Points to Keep in Mind Regarding Used Cooking Oil and the Environment

When you clean your deep fryers and properly recycle the used cooking oil, you protect the environment. Here are key points to keep in mind.

You Help Create Clean, Renewable Energy

Just under eight pounds of used cooking oil are needed to create one gallon of biodiesel. Estimates are that a gallon of cooking oil weighs about 7.6 pounds, depending on the type of oil. If you go to a retailer like Walmart and purchase a gallon bottle of vegetable oil, the retailer lists the weight as 8.4 pounds, which includes the packaging.

As biodiesel is created, you end up with biodiesel and glycerin. Glycerin can be used in many things, including beauty and skincare products. 

Biodiesel can power trucks and cars and is even used in jet fuel. In time, it could become an alternative fuel source for home heating oil. As it does gel at low temperatures, it’s not a complete replacement for petroleum-based diesel yet, but research is ongoing and hopes to find a way to allow biodiesel to be used without needing a mixture.

You Reduce Greenhouse Gasses

Because used cooking oil can be converted into biodiesel, every gallon of used cooking oil that you recycle helps reduce greenhouse gasses. Biodiesel is mixed with petroleum-based diesel to reduce the dependency on petroleum products. It burns cleaner and reduces greenhouse gas.

B100 (pure 100% biodiesel) reduces carbon dioxide emissions by over 75%. B20 (80% petroleum/20% biodiesel) reduces emissions by 15%. B20 is the most common blend in the U.S.

You Protect Area Bodies of Water From Oil Spills

Earlier this year, a South Carolina restaurant was caught dumping used cooking oil down a manhole cover. That cooking oil found its way to a pond and river where it was killing fish and birds, and it was impacting the health of alligators and turtles. 

In a body of water, used cooking oil is an oil spill. It’s devastating. If people use that pond, river, or lake for drinking water, the oil goes into the water treatment plant where it can pose costly issues to remove it. Not only will people be frustrated that water treatment is costing more and taking longer, but they’re also going to learn it’s your food service business that caused this and the negative press can destroy your business.

You Reduce the Energy Used in Wastewater Treatment Processes

In a wastewater treatment plant, wastewater enters the primary clarifier tank where solids sink to the bottom and FOG rises to the top where it can be skimmed out, dewatered, and taken to a landfill. Skimmers and pumps use electricity. After the wastewater moves to an aeration tank, it’s stirred up with oxygen added and clarified again. 

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that the average wastewater treatment plants around the U.S. consume around 30 terawatt hours of electricity each year. It’s about $2 billion in electricity costs.

Upgrading wastewater treatment equipment helps reduce energy consumption, but when restaurants and others in the food service industry take the initial steps to remove FOG from wastewater, it helps lower the amount of electricity used in wastewater treatment processes.

You Prevent Overflows That Impact Public Health

A fatberg occurs when FOG collects in a pipe or sewer line, solidifies, and gathers other items like baby wipes, plastic bags and wrappers, and rags. Eventually, these blockages can grow large enough to prevent or limit the flow of wastewater. It can back up in homes, businesses, and streets and increase the risk of infectious diseases. A handful of the diseases involving sewage include:

  • Campylobacteriosis
  • E. coli
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Hepatitis A
  • Salmonella

Keeping used cooking oil out of the sewers is vital for public safety. If their health is impacted by oil you’ve poured down a drain, it will get costly with lawsuits and fines.

You Reduce Waste Going to a Landfill

When you recycle used cooking oil, you keep that cooking oil out of a landfill. On its own, used cooking oil takes about a month to break down in a landfill. But, it’s often sent to landfills in plastic bottles or glass jars. It can take over 100 years to break down that way. That’s a long time to have space taken up in a landfill. Plus, as oil breaks down, it will release some methane.

The Public Will Appreciate It

Even though it’s required to have a grease trap and recycle used cooking oil, if you talk about it with your customers, they’re going to appreciate the extra step. It shows you care about the environment and the people within the community. It’s good publicity.

You Save Money on Required Grease Trap Cleanings

There’s another point to consider. When you recycle used cooking oil from your fryers, you make money. As it’s required to have your grease interceptors inspected and cleaned each month, you can recycle used cooking oil and get substantial discounts on grease trap cleaning and maintenance.

Northwest Biofuel provides you with discounts on cleanings and inspections, and the proper paperwork is filed with the city after this service. You remain in compliance and don’t have to worry about unexpected fines. Talk to us about your restaurant or food service business’s grease trap cleaning needs and how you’re never locked into a contract and don’t pay if you’re not satisfied.