Disposing of cooking oil in the UK might seem like a small thing, but it can easily end up costing the UK local councils sums of money, surmounting to thousands of pounds. Furthermore, it can lead to a host of environmental issues, let alone causing blockages in the drainage systems.
In the UK, many households are not being responsible enough to properly dispose of used cooking oil. Furthermore, it is a legal requirement for any business in the food industry to safely and properly handle waste cooking oil. Part of this includes the oil being collected by a registered waste cooking oil collections company.
In the event they fail to comply with these regulations, they are liable to high fines. Sometimes it might force the local councils to close the businesses. The result of these closures is prosecution, or you will experience an enforced cessation of trading, which complies with the Food Safety Act (FSA) 1990.
Do not drain the used cooking oil down your Sink!
A lot of people in the many UK households are culprits of this. Many people don’t understand that this is not the appropriate way to dispose of old cooking oil. This can be a source of headaches for local sewerage companies and councils because they have to incur significant costs to clean up the mess.
Draining old cooking oil in your sink not only causes blockages in your own domestic drainage system, clogging the waste pipes. Blockages in the sewer system can result in “fat bergs,” which prevent the sewer system’s normal and efficient functioning.
If you are not entirely sure what a fatberg looks like, check out the image below of a 40-ton fatberg, which is courtesy of Thames Water’s post from Twitter. This gigantic fatberg weighs about the same weight as 3 London buses!
The image above is an extreme example of a fatberg, but the truth of the matter is that such sights will become more prevalent if left untreated.
As well as fats and oils causing sewer issues, there are other causes of blockages, including:
- Cleansing wipes
- Kitchen roll
- Cotton buds
- Sanitary products
- Facial and baby wipes
There are clear environmental issues to contend with, when you pour old cooking oil down your sink, it may find its way into streams, rivers and lakes. This can end up having great wildlife and environmental impacts.
Will Boiling Water Help?
Frankly, the answer is no, it won’t. When you pour hot boiling water down your drains or sink, there might be short-term benefit of your action, especially for blocked sinks. But everything will immediately solidify further down the drains or in that sewer ahead as it cools down. If you discover that there are blockages in your drains due to old cooking fats or oils, we advise that the best solution would be to remove the pipework, remove or wipe any solidified oils using a kitchen towel and throw it in the bin.
What You Can Do as a Domestic Household
You are allowed to place small quantities of cooking fats and oils into your household bins. However, this is only doable if you have cooled down the oils or fats first. Furthermore, it would help if you put it in a sealable plastic container like a takeaway tub. Using such containers will prevent oil from seeping through your waste.
It is also advisable to use a kitchen towel to wipe as much fat and oil from your frying pans. You can then dispose of the towel into your bins.
If you would like to do your part in helping to recycle you can also store used fats and oils ready for a company to collect it and recycle it into biofuel. If you want to do your part you can find a cooking oil recycler to come and collect the oils for you. Failing that you can also contact your local council to determine whether there is a local recycling centre for you to take your oils to.
In case you need more information on how to dispose of old cooking oil at home, you can check out the “Bin It Don’t Block It” scheme introduced by Thames Water. You can also read more on this scheme here.
What Happens for Businesses?
It may not be as simple for businesses to dispose of used cooking oils, especially in their bins. This is because there are many legal requirements that this industry must adhere to.
As a business owner you have a legal responsibility to dispose of your waste correctly. You should seek the help of a fully registered recycling company, there are many Environment Agency registered waste handlers available.
The Food Safety Act (FSA) 1990
The act lays out the Food Standards Agency’s requirements in handling and disposing of old cooking oils. Therefore, businesses have to adhere to them. The local councils have the authority to inspect any premise. If they find out you are in breach of any of the FSA 1990 guidelines, they can fine or close your business in some extreme cases.
A news article from 2016 indicates how serious it can be for a business owner if you break any of these guidelines. A local authority fined a Café £5000 for blocking the local sewer lines because of irresponsible disposal of used cooking oils. Read more on the post here.
How to Legally Store Used Cooking Oil
You should follow the laid-out guidelines for correctly storing used cooking oils until a licensed waste carrier comes to collect them. It is the business owner’s responsibility to correctly store these used oils.
Businesses who use cooking oil need to ensure they have a designated storage tank for any old oils they produce, with a secure lid to prevent spillages.
Badly stored waste oils in your premises can cause a buildup of gases and nasty smells at the same time contravening food hygiene standards.
How to Find a Registered Waste Carrier
It is your responsibility to find a licensed used cooking oil disposal company who is registered with the Environment Agency. Once you are confident that you have finally found a reputable used cooking oil carrier, you should expect a waste transfer note from them. It is a legal requirement that will be instrumental in helping to track and trace any old cooking oil from your business to the company responsible for recycling.
Furthermore, you are required to keep records of all the used cooking oil collections for at least 6 years.
Why Recycle Used Cooking Oils?
Recycling used cooking oil is very important and it is everyone’s responsibility to recycle as much waste as possible.
Some of the main reasons why you should recycle old cooking oils include:
- Staying legal: We mentioned earlier that businesses could not afford to disregard the FSA 1990 regulations, especially in terms of disposing of waste cooking oils. It is a legal obligation of any business to dispose of used cooking oils correctly. If they can recycle the waste, it would be an added advantage.
- Biofuels: You can also recycle old cooking oils into biofuels like biodiesel. From a litre of used cooking oil collected, you can get 1 litre of biodiesel. These are great alternatives to conventional fossil fuel diesel. You may not know this yet, but the original diesel engine was designed to run on recycled cooking oil. Furthermore, biodiesel is a renewable source of energy, which is rapidly becoming popular because it is cleaner when burnt, thus, an ideal eco-friendly option.
- Environment: There is extensive documentation of the impact of depleting and burning fossil fuel supplies over the years. When you recycle used cooking oil into biofuels, you help create a sustainable source of energy. For more information on this, visit The Association For Renewable Energy and Clean Technology.