3 min read

The big disposal discussion 

Leftover cooking oil and empty oil bottles needn’t be headaches

There’s certainly one thing you do know about disposing of used olive oil – don’t dump it down the kitchen sink. That’s just asking for clogged pipes and maybe even a backed-up sewage system that’s threatening to unleash unhealthy pathogens into the air. 

Most home cooks know it’s far better to let the oil cool and solidify in the pan so that it can be wiped up with a paper towel and the towel dropped in a rubbish bin. 

You can do it this way with all cooking oils except canola oil, which refuses to solidify. Even olive oil will solidify once left to cool, though the extent to which it does depends on the grade. 

Better still, olive oil comes with its own terrific solutions to the disposal problem. For example, maybe you don’t need to dispose of it at all! 

Oils used for deep-frying can be reused several times if you follow a few guidelines. Don’t mix different types of oil or leave it on the heat after you’re done cooking, which accelerates rancidity. Make sure the oil is clear of any leftover batter or food. Ensure the oil is stored in a cool, dark place, and that when you’re cooking, the temperature is at least 190 degrees Celsius. 

Remember too that olive oil doesn’t always have to be associated with mealtimes.  It can be used as a wood furniture polish, a lubricant for joints and hinges and a helper with stuck zippers, and can prevent streaks and corrosion on stainless steel and brass. Millions of people around the world also depend on its healthful properties in applying olive oil generously to the skin and the hair. 

Like vegetable oils, oil made from the fruit of the olive tree is entirely organic, so it can readily go from the kitchen to your compost pile. There’s a limit to this, however: Too much oil might kill or slow some decomposition processes, so be sure to add small amounts at a time and mix it in to the compost thoroughly. 

With a little advance planning, you could dispose of cooking oils by tapping the facilities of a recycling centre or local restaurant. Pour any leftover oil a re-sealable container and once it’s full, take it to your new bulk-disposal partner and add it to their outgoing shipment. 

Another head-scratcher that will arise is what to do about those empty bottles still slick with oil. It’s usually easy to spot the “recycling symbol” on the label with its resin identification code, but this only establishes what kind of material the bottle is made of. Plus, your local facilities may not have the capacity to handle that type of plastic or the form it’s produced in. 

Also tricky is the fact that oil residues can easily contaminate other contents of your recycling bin. So, your containers have to be as oil-free as possible. Washing with soap and water will remove most of the oil, but using too much water can cancel out the benefits of recycling. Try using just a paper towel or spatula to remove whatever oil is left over after use.