After cooking a big meal, you have a lot of leftover olive oil. This isn’t really something you think you’d like to use again, but now what? You want to safely and responsibly get rid of the oil, but how and where do you do this?
To dispose of olive oil you can recycle it, compost it, or throw it away. The process involves cooling the oil so it becomes a solid (or freezing it), transferring it to another container if necessary, composting it, or dropping it off at a restaurant or recycling center.
In this article, we will elaborate on all things recycling and/or removing used olive oil from your home. From safe methods to those to avoid, we recommend you keep reading. By the time you’re done, you’ll know exactly how to handle a surplus of olive oil in your home.
Can You Reuse Cooked Olive Oil?
There are two instances in which you’d want olive oil out of your house. The first is when it’s expired, and the second is if you cooked with it and don’t think you can use it again.
In both situations, olive oil’s lifespan extends further than you may have thought. As we’ve written about on this blog, expired olive oil is a great treatment for stressed-out, dried, and damaged hair.
As for olive oil you cooked with? While it depends on what kind of meal you prepared, most of the time, it’s reusable. When made with potatoes and vegetables especially, you can not only add the olive oil to yet another future dish, but possibly several.
That said, if your olive oil was a key ingredient in a fish or meat dish, then you want to tread more carefully. It’s probably better to dispose of it after a single use.
Even if you can reuse your cooking oil, this isn’t an indefinite thing. While that’d be nice, olive oil loses stability each time it’s re-added to food. This kickstarts the decomposition process.
Don’t worry, as you can’t miss olive oil in a decomposing state. It has a foamy surface on top, sort of like the oil was sitting in soap. Also, the once semi-clear olive oil now looks cloudy. Please throw it out at this point.
How to Responsibly Get Rid of Old Olive Oil
Okay, so you can’t keep your olive oil around anymore, but you also don’t want to just throw it in the trash. That’s smart thinking! Tossing a full container of olive oil away like this can cause two gnarly situations. 1.) The oil could leak all over your trashcan, and 2.) a whole array of critters and insects could come to feast on the free food.
There’s a responsible, smart way to go about olive oil disposal, and it’s one we outlined in the intro. Let’s cover those steps in more detail now.
Step 1: Allow the Olive Oil to Become a Solid OR Freeze It
If you were recently cooking or frying food with your olive oil, then chances are it’s still quite warm. Before you do anything else with it, allow the oil to cool down. When this happens, the olive oil will begin to go from a liquid to a solid. This is natural, as the only oil that doesn’t solidify upon cooling is canola oil.
Some people opt to leave the solidified olive oil as is when they dispose of it, which is fine. Others decide to freeze the oil once it becomes somewhat solid.
If you want to reuse your olive oil for other cooking applications, then freezing it is a good way to hold onto it slightly longer. Just make sure you write down the date you froze the olive oil somewhere on its container. Then, use it in about six months, give or take.
Step 2: Move the Olive Oil to Another Container
If you are freezing the olive oil, then you’re going to want to transfer it to a different container. The glass bottle or jug it came in is not suitable for freezing unless it’s labeled as such or you’re sure it’s tempered.
Otherwise, don’t freeze glass. Since glass expands and contracts according to the temperature, there’s a risk it could crack. While frozen, solid olive oil won’t make as much of a mess as it would in liquid form, you still don’t want to pick frozen glass shards out of your freezer.
Not freezing your olive oil? No problem. You still don’t want it in its original bottle or jar in most cases. Use a sealing container like Tupperware to prevent spillage as the olive oil goes from liquid to solid. Make sure you put a lid on the container as well.
Step 3a: Use It for Compost
You have two options from here: compost the used olive oil or recycle it. If you choose to do the former, you can mix the oil with vegetable scraps, fruit scraps, leaves, and other ingredients in your compost. Since even used olive oil is considered an organic material, composting it is safe for your houseplants or whatever else you use compost for.
That said, don’t just scoop in the whole solidified slab of oil at once. Take small chunks and toss them in. If you need more, then by all means, add it, but too much olive oil might affect organic processes. Be careful!
Step 3b: Take It to a Recycling Center
If you don’t do any gardening, then you might not have an interest in composting your olive oil. That’s perfectly fine, as you can also recycle it. You might reach out to restaurants in your neighborhood first and ask if any would have a use for the oil.
If you don’t get any takers, then you can also try your fire department or trash company. Barring all that, take the oil to a recycling center. Just call or email the center first to see if they even accept olive oil. If so, you can drop the container off and be done or even dump the olive oil into a bin at the recycling center.
In some parts of the country, you can get a tax deduction on recycling or donating your olive oil, so keep that in mind around tax time.
What Can Recycled Olive Oil Be Used For?
When you recycle your olive oil, what happens to it? Does the recycling center purify the oil somehow to use it again for cooking? No, not exactly. Your olive oil has an even cooler fate: it gets made into biodiesel!
By blending methanol or another alcohol with animal fats or vegetable oils (which olive oil is), you get biodiesel. This fuel source may be better for our planet, releasing fewer greenhouse gases. It’s renewable as well, burns clean, and is produced domestically. That makes it an ideal fuel source for vehicles like motorcycles and tractors.
While preparing your used olive oil for recycling does take some time, remember all the good you’re doing for the planet when you dispose of your oil responsibly. That ought to make you feel fantastic!
Can’t You Just Dump Your Olive Oil Down the Sink?
What if you’re in a rush and you want the olive oil out right now? Doesn’t it make more sense to just pour it down the sink? In fact, you’re a little surprised you haven’t seen the recommendation before now.
That’s because dumping your olive oil in the sink is the last thing you want to do. There are a few reasons for this. Remember before how we mentioned that olive oil goes from a liquid to a solid when it cools down? It only needs to reach temperatures of about 40 degrees Fahrenheit for this to happen.
If it’s that cold in your home, such as during a harsh winter, and you put olive oil in your sink, guess what’s going to happen? That’s right, the oil will solidify right in your sink, clogging up all the pipes. You’d have no choice but to call a plumber, who’d have to painstakingly force out each piece of olive oil. That’s both gross and sure to be quite expensive work.
Let’s say it’s the middle of summer or you live in a state where the temps rarely get to 40 degrees. You still have to worry if you pour olive oil down the drain in your kitchen. As a liquid, olive oil is as much of a headache to your pipes as it is when it’s a solid.
While water and many other beverages wash right down the pipes, olive oil coats the pipes everywhere it touches. These become slick and sticky and capture other sink debris as it accumulates. Now, instead of this debris washing away like it usually does, it builds up until it causes a blockage.
Once again, you’d have to reach out to your plumber and pay quite a hefty bill to get your sink’s pipes all patched up.
Can You Flush Olive Oil Down The Toilet?
Alright, so the kitchen (and bathroom, for that matter) sinks are out of the question, but what about your toilet? Surely that can handle a bit of olive oil, right? What happens if you pour the oil in the toilet bowl and then flush?
The same thing as before, really. Olive oil in liquid form coats the pipes, allowing toilet paper and fecal matter to get stuck in your toilet’s pipes. When solidified, there’s a good chance the olive oil won’t even flush anyway and could clog your toilet, causing a backup.
Let’s say you did manage to successfully flush your olive oil down the toilet. As the fats travel along your pipes, they could lead to backups and other issues later. It’s a lot worse dealing with toilet backups than those in the kitchen sink, so please don’t use your toilet for this purpose.
Can You Put Olive Oil Down The Garbage Disposal?
If the kitchen sink and toilet don’t work, then the garbage disposal definitely will for getting rid of your old olive oil, right? Once again, no. From fat to grease and oil, none of it is designed for the garbage disposal. That goes for all sorts of grease and oil sources, including bacon grease, olive oil, and vegetable oil.
You could break the garbage disposal by misusing it, which again necessitates pricey repairs.