food grease on grill.

Fat and Grease Disposal and Recycling

Fat and grease are by-products of food waste – usually from meat fat, lard, oil, butter, or other dairy products. Although there are many culinary uses and other applications for fat and grease, it’s often disposed of as a waste product. Commercial kitchens, restaurants, pubs, and catering companies regularly dispose of fat and grease.

Due to the unique nature of this waste, it’s important you follow proper fat and grease disposal and recycling methods to avoid it going to landfill. Understand how to properly dispose of and recycle fat and grease, and learn a few interesting facts with our answers to frequently asked questions.

Grease disposal

  • What were the first uses of fat and grease?

    The earliest historical account of people using fat and grease dates back to 2400 B.C. in Ancient Egypt. It has been noted that Ancient Egyptians used grease, oil, and water to make lubricants that could reduce friction. A painted relief on the wall of an Egyptian pharaoh’s tomb shows a worker pouring lubricant to assist in moving large statues.

  • What are fat and grease made from?

    Traditionally, fat and grease are made when cooking or rendering animal fat. Yellow grease, for example, is made using darker parts of a hog. Brown grease is a by-product of cooking beef or mutton fats. There are other types of fat and grease, but all the traditional kinds come from animal fat being rendered.

    In recent times, synthetic grease has grown in popularity as an alternative to animal-based fats and grease. These synthetic types of grease consist of soaps, artificial thickeners or petroleum oils.

  • How do you properly dispose of fat and grease?

    Although many people pour fat or grease down the sink, this is bad for the environment and could damage your sink by creating a blockage. Instead, the best way to dispose of grease and fat is to throw them away in your general waste bin. There are a few things to do before you dispose of fat and grease in a bin:

    • Let the fat and grease cool and solidify before throwing it away.
    • Use a container or drum to store the cooling grease or fat for easy disposal.
    • Wipe away any leftover grease or fat from pots and pans with a paper towel – and dispose of this with general waste too.

    A good way to manage fat and grease is to prevent its accumulation in sinks and drains, so you can dispose of it safely. Thankfully, there are many tools available for this job such as:

    • Sink strainers stop accidental food waste entering your sink and drains.
    • Grease traps are fitted to drainpipes to separate fats and grease from wastewater.
    • Enzyme dosing systems break down fat and grease that has already accumulated in your drains.
  • What are the problems with fat and grease waste?

    Fat and grease are insoluble in water, so when they’re improperly disposed of down a sink, they don’t disperse. Instead, the fat and grease coagulate and create blockages. Even if they don’t cause a blockage at your end, fat and grease entering the sewerage system can lead to pollution in streams and rivers.

    Fat and grease can create blockages in sewers and pipes if they are improperly disposed of down sinks and drains. In the UK, more than 5,000 properties are flooded each year and it’s often cause by fat or grease blockages. It costs around £100 million per year to reactively unblock sewerage due to fat and grease waste.

    If left unchecked, the build-up can create ‘fatbergs’, which are rock-like masses of waste built up over time. The largest fatberg ever found was in Liverpool – it measured 84 metres in length and weighed over 90 tonnes.

  • Can you recycle fat and grease?

    Yes, you can recycle fat and grease. The best way to recycle fat and grease is to repurpose it for your cooking. If you accumulate a lot of fat and grease from cooking, you can store it and use it later. Remember to pair your grease with whatever you’re cooking – so if you’re frying vegetables for a vegetarian dish, don’t use animal grease or fat.

  • Can you compost grease?

    You can compost very small amounts of fat and grease if it’s a vegetable oil – such as olive, sunflower, corn, or rapeseed oil. And you can only add a small amount to compost, as otherwise it slows down the composting process. It’s generally best to avoid composting grease though, as certain types are too strong to break down.

Learn about more 
waste types

Find out more about other rubbish streams.

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