Should you compost fats & grease? If not, where should they go?

fats grease oil
Photos courtesy Pixabay

by Connie Oswald Stofko

Thanksgiving is coming up next week, with more winter celebrations to follow. You may be cooking a lot–and cleaning up a lot.

What should you do with the grease on the pots and pans?

Let’s look at the choices. You may be surprised.

Compost

It’s generally recommended not to use fats, oils and grease in your compost because they can create odor problems and attract rodents.

Some people say you can add small amounts of fats, oil and grease to your compost, especially if it’s plant-based oil rather than animal fat. I’ve done that on occasion, but last year we had some critter chewing through our plastic compost bin, and I think it might have been because they could smell some wonderful grease in there.

Adding grease to your compost bin may slow down the decomposition, too.

But if you’re not in a hurry and you’re not too concerned about rodents, you can try wiping grease out of a dish with a paper towel and putting the paper towel it in your compost bin. Let us know how that works for you.

EPA diagram dry
Here the combined sewer and stormwater systerm is working well. But if it gets clogged, untreated sewage is dumped into our waterways. Image courtesy Environmental Protection Agency

If you don’t compost fats, oil and grease, what are your other options?

Dump down drain or in toilet–no!

Don’t flush fats, oils or grease down the toilet or pour them down the drain, according to Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper.

Not only could those fats clog the pipes in your house, they could clog the sewer system.

Background: Much of Western New York has a combined sewer and stormwater system. When we get a heavy rain or heavy snowmelt, the system can get overwhelmed. To keep the water from backing up into your house, a an overflow valve is opened, and untreated sewage is dumped directly into our waterways. That why beaches are often closed after a heavy rain.

EPA diagram wet
When the combined sewage and stormwater system gets overwhelmed or clogged, untreated sewage is dumped into our waterways. Image courtesy Environmental Protection Agency

Fats, oils and grease can clog the system and trigger runoffs, too, said Jennifer Fee, communications and marketing director at Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper.

“Our infrastructure is old, crumbling and failing us in a lot of ways,” Fee said. When people flush items that they shouldn’t, “it exacerbates our existing problems.”

Tip: Even “flushable” wipes aren’t flushable.

Garbage

While we don’t want to add to landfills, for now, that’s an acceptable place for fats, oil and grease. It’s much better than sending them down the drain!

Wait until the excess fat from your dish cools and hardens, then scrape the fat into the garbage, Fee said. If you have grease in a pan, wait until it cools, then wipe the grease out with a paper towel or coffee filter and throw that into the garbage.

4 Comments on “Should you compost fats & grease? If not, where should they go?

  1. Hi Vicki, the bacon grease congeals, but isn’t solid and hard like suet. You can’t use bacon grease the way you would use suet for birds, but you have figured out a workaround. One thing I would note: The pan of bacon grease could attract rats and other pests. Thanks for letting us know what worked for you. It’s nice when you can find a use for something that might otherwise end up in a landfill.

  2. I save the cooled, solid Bacon Grease & combine it with a high quality Bird Seed until it is thoroughly coated in the frying pan.
    I then place the pan outside under my Maple tree where I have other feeders for the Birds.
    The extra grease is good Winter protection for the Birds & they always enjoy the Treat!
    When it’s gone, I simply pick up the pan & wash it out.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Name *