By Robert Kittle
How you dispose of any cooking oil or grease from your Thanksgiving meal, whether you fry a turkey or have a lot less oil or grease, could determine whether you end up with an expensive plumbing bill. Pouring oil or grease down your sink will clog the pipes in your house or in the city or county's sewer system.
"People do think if it's not a big container, like the turkey grease or something from Fry Daddy or a Fry Momma, if it's a small amount it doesn't matter. And I've learned since I've been here that even a little bit matters," says Mary Pat Baldauf, sustainability facilitator for the City of Columbia's Public Works Department.
She says a lot of people mistakenly believe that they can pour used cooking oil or grease in the sink as long as they're running hot water or they're using soap that breaks up grease. "The Dawn is great for your sink, but it doesn't really help in the wastewater lines. Same with hot water. So you really just need to get it out of the sink, out of the wastewater lines, just prevent it from going in there to begin with," she says.
Public Awareness Coordinator for Columbia Department of Utilities and Engineering Victoria Kramer says the city has had numerous cases of sewer lines getting clogged and backing up because of cooking oil or grease. "When we go back and actually have to clean out these clogs, a lot of times what we pull out of the sewer pipe is just about as hard as concrete," she says of the giant balls of grease that form.
But the clogs won't necessarily damage only the city's or county's lines; they could damage your pipes, leading to expensive repairs.
So what should you do with your used cooking oil or grease? If it's a large amount, like from a turkey fryer or a deep fryer, strain out any food particles and put the oil in a container. Many counties have recycling programs that take used cooking oil.
If it's a smaller amount, or your community doesn't recycle cooking oil, Kramer says pour the grease or oil into an empty can, then set it aside or put it in your refrigerator for it to cool. Once it's cooled off, you can throw the can in your trash.