Keep FOG – fats, oils, grease – out of drain to help protect the environment

There is a debate right now about whether fat is good or bad and how much fat should be in a healthy diet. There is even debate about which fats are healthy. I am always confused about which cooking oil to buy and whether I should stick with margarine or use butter (or even lard).

Nevertheless, there is one thing I am sure about when it comes to FOG – fats, oils and grease: FOG does not go down the drain.
Flog clog (Photo provided)I didn’t always know about FOG. When I was growing up, my grandmother taught me to cook. We cooked bacon, fried chicken and any other Southern comfort food you could imagine. When we were done cooking, we would save most of the oil to reuse for later, but we would put the oily pots and pans directly into the sink to clean with soapy hot water. What my grandmother and I did not know is that even that tiny bit of FOG is damaging to the environment, home plumbing, septic systems and sewer systems.

I now know that putting even a little FOG down the drain is bad for water quality and can ruin the plumbing. So when I have finished cooking, I collect liquid grease and oils in a sealable container. For the grease that cannot be poured into the container, I wipe pans clean with a paper towel and put it in the trash. My food scraps that do not go into the compost also go in the trash. I scrape off excess food from pots, pans and plates before rinsing them in the sink with cold water. This means that I almost never need to use my garbage disposal.

FOG does not stop at the kitchen sink. The residue left over from cooking meats, butters and margarine, lard, food scraps, sauces, salad dressings, dairy products and cooking oil will harden after it cools and can clog pipes when poured down the drain.

Plus, FOG can also clog the sewer pipes under the streets that take the wastewater from your house to the treatment plant. When that happens, the wastewater can back up and come to the surface. This can allow untreated sewage to run into the streets and into our storm drains. This is not only a human health hazard but, since storm drains flow to creeks and rivers, this can cause significant environmental damage and affect aquatic life forms.

To avoid household or environmental damage, as well as a costly bill, never put FOG down the drain. Follow these few tips and you can avoid any FOG problems:
• Do put oil and grease in covered collection containers.
• Do scrape food scraps from dishes into trash cans and garbage bags and dispose of them properly.
• Do avoid using the garbage disposal. The garbage disposal does not destroy grease; it only makes the particles smaller. If you have even a little accumulated grease in your pipes, putting food scraps down the drain can clog your pipes faster.
• Do remove oil and grease from dishes, pans, fryers, and griddles. Cool first before you skim, scrape, or wipe off excess grease.
• Do prewash your dishes in cold water before putting them in the dishwasher.
• Don’t pour oil and grease down the drain.
• Don’t put food scraps down the drain.
• Don’t rinse off oil and grease with hot water.

Whether you are cooking with bacon grease, extra virgin olive oil, butter or coconut oil, keep your FOG out of the drain.

Ashley photo

Ashley Bryant Cheney is the green jobs coordinator for Bluegrass Greensource, connecting green businesses with a young workforce and preparing students for green careers in the Bluegrass. From Knoxville, she’s worked in volunteer and program management at various nonprofits. She has a bachelor’s in psychology from Carson-Newman University and a master’s in urban studies and community development from Eastern University.

This article appeared in KY Forward on August 18, 2014.

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