What to Know About Recycling Cooking Oil

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on January 11, 2023

If cooking oil is disposed of down the drain, it can clog pipes and harm plants and animals. 

The best way you can dispose of cooking oil is by throwing it in the trash or pouring it into a sealable container and sending it for recycling.

Recycling used cooking oil is a simple, effective way to reduce waste and protect the environment. If you want to recycle your oil, follow proper oil recycling guidelines — this way, you can do your part to reduce waste and protect the planet.

What Is Cooking Oil Made of?

Cooking oil comes from various sources like plants, nuts, and seeds. Some oils commonly used for cooking include olive oil, canola oil, and palm oil.

The process of making cooking oil varies based on the kind of oil being extracted and the source material being used, but it typically involves extracting the oil from the plant or seed and refining it to remove impurities.

Is cooking oil bad for the environment? Cooking oil itself is not inherently bad for the environment, but how you dispose of it can have negative impacts.

Pouring cooking oil down the drain can clog pipes and sewage systems, leading to expensive repairs and potentially causing environmental damage. In addition, if cooking oil is not disposed of properly and ends up in water bodies, it can harm wildlife and disrupt the delicate ecosystem.

Is cooking oil biodegradable? Cooking oil is not biodegradable because it doesn't break down naturally in the environment. Cooking oil can be recycled and used for other purposes, like producing biodiesel fuel.

Biodiesel is a renewable fuel made from cooking oil — which can be used in place of traditional fossil fuels.

Can You Recycle Used Cooking Oil?

Untreated used cooking oil is bad for the environment. But when it’s recycled, it can be transformed into biodiesel, a clean-burning fuel used to power vehicles and heat homes. 

To recycle cooking oil, let it cool completely, pour it into a sealable container, and then take it to a designated oil recycling center. Keep track of the type and amount of oil you’re going to recycle — different kinds of oils need different recycling processes.

How To Recycle Old Cooking Oil

Here’s how you can prepare your used cooking oil and then send it for recycling:

  1. Let the oil cool completely. Hot oil can be dangerous and damage the recycling equipment.
  2. Strain the oil to remove any food particles or debris. You can use a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth to do this.
  3. Pour the oil into a sealable container like a plastic bottle or metal can. Close the container tightly to avoid any spills. Always be careful when handling and transporting used oil because the oil can get on the outside of the container and make it slippery — eventually, leading to the oil spilling out.
  4. Label the oil container with the kind of oil it contains. This will help your oil recycling facility determine the best way to recycle the oil.
  5. Take or send the oil to a designated recycling center. This facility will have all the things needed to handle and process your used cooking oil safely and efficiently.

Why Recycle Used Cooking Oil

You should recycle cooking oil for several reasons:

Environmental protection. Recycling used cooking oil can have several positive impacts. It can prevent the oil from being disposed of improperly and reduce the demand for new oil. Recycled cooking oil can be converted into biodiesel fuel and help to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills.

Resource conservation. Recycling used cooking oil conserves resources by providing an alternative to petroleum-based fuels. Used cooking oil can be transformed into biodiesel, which is a clean-burning fuel that can be used to power vehicles and heat homes.

Energy savings. The process of recycling used cooking oil takes less energy than the process of petroleum extraction and refining. So, using recycled cooking oil as a fuel source can save a lot of energy.

Cost savings. Recycling used cooking oil can save money over time. By disposing of used oil properly, you can avoid costly plumbing repairs and fines for oil disposal violations.

How Is Recycled Cooking Oil Used

Using recycled cooking oil can reduce waste, conserve resources, and support a more sustainable future. From making soap and candles to using it as a fuel source and natural pesticide, recycled cooking oil can be used at home and in industries. 

Soap making. By mixing recycled cooking oil with lye and other soap ingredients, like color and fragrance, you can make laundry soaps that are gentle on not only your clothes but also your skin.

Lubrication. Recycled cooking oil can be used as a lubricant for household items such as door hinges, locks, and other moving parts. It can also be used to lubricate chains on bikes, lawnmowers, and other outdoor equipment.

Candle making. By melting the oil and mixing it with wax and a fragrance of your choice, you can make homemade candles.

Wood polishing. Recycled cooking oil can be used to polish and protect wood surfaces around the house, such as furniture and cabinets.

Natural pesticide and insect repellent. Recycled cooking oil can be mixed with water and other natural ingredients to create a natural pesticide for use in the garden. It can also be mixed with essential oils and other natural ingredients to create a natural insect repellent safe for use on human and pet skin.

Fuel source. Recycled cooking oil can be used as a fuel source in wood stoves, fireplaces, and other heating appliances.

Hair conditioning and skin moisturization. Recycled cooking oil can be used as a natural conditioning treatment for dry or damaged hair. It can also be used as a natural moisturizer to nourish and hydrate dry or irritated skin.

Show Sources

African Journal of Biotechnology: "Taxonomic perspective of plant species yielding vegetable oils used in cosmetics and skin care products." 
Alternative Fuels Data Center: “Biodiesel Production and Distribution.”
Clayton County Water Authority: “Proper Disposal of Fats, Oils and Grease.”
Colorado State University Extension: “Insect Control: Horticultural Oils.”
Environmental Working Group: “Kitchen Cabinets and Countertops.”
IOP Conference Series: Materials Science and Engineering: “Waste cooking oil as source for renewable fuel in Romania.”
Renewable Energy: “Solid alcohol biofuel based on waste cooking oil: Preparation, properties, micromorphology, heating value optimization and its application as candle wax.”
Scientific Research and Essays: “Preparation of Laundry Soap from Used Cooking Oils: Getting value out of waste.”
Processes: “Available Technologies and Materials for Waste Cooking Oil Recycling.”
United States Environmental Protection Agency: “Managing, Reusing, and Recycling Used Oil,” “Understanding Oil Spills and Oil Spill Response.”

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