Repurpose, Don’t Trash! Creative Ways to Recycle Used Cooking Oil

Author:  Leandro Ravael (BT ‘22), Andrea Zefany Wirjolukito (FT ‘22), and Novita Tjahjono (FT ‘21)

Cooking oil is one of the most common household materials used in numerous cooking techniques, such as frying, baking, and preparing food for consumption. This cooking component allows food to have better quality. For example, oil adds moisture and creates a desirable texture in bread loaves. Without oil, the overall calorie and fat content of dishes may be lower, which could lead to the hindrance of oil’s benefits for our health. 

Despite the benefits of cooking oil, there are still lots of improper disposal methods for handling oil waste, commonly done by most households. This includes throwing away used cooking oil into the sink/drain/toilet, which causes clogging due to its accumulation that constricts the flow of wastewater. Other than that, some people dispose of oils in the ground, leading to soil infertility, inactivating microorganisms and affecting plant growth.

Improper disposal of oil can also affect animals! Mostly aquatic animals, when the oil layer on water surfaces blocks sunlight and oxygen exchange. This contaminates the water and kills aquatic animals. Furthermore, this issue may cause more environmental problems for other living things that are related to the aquatic ecosystem. 

To correctly and safely dispose of cooking oil, it must be cooled down before being placed in a disposable container prior to the garbage (e.g., styrofoam or cardboard milk cartons). Aside from that, absorbent materials, such as sand, can be added to soak up the liquid. In addition, improper disposal of used cooking oil could damage your pipes. Additionally, it is not recommended to pour hot oil into a trash can because it could attract insects. 

Beyond its usage, waste cooking oil can be repurposed in various ways, such as recycled into biofuels, utilized as a lubricant for tools, and made into household products like soap. Recycling cooking oil is important as it saves on the energy and resources required to create new oil. This also reduces the risk of contaminating the environment. Therefore, it will be beneficial for us to start recycling used oil!

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