Does Chicago offer cooking oil recycling?

We received a great question from Laura V! She asks:

“Does Chicago offer cooking oil recycling? If not, what is the best thing to do with it?”

Cooking oils and grease can be tricky to dispose of. They shouldn't be poured down the drain because they clog pipes. And they shouldn’t be tossed in compost bins – oil and fats can attract rodents and slow the composting process. So, what do you do with it?

The Reuse Option

If the oil was used at low heat (below the smoking point), you might be able to reuse it once or twice. Just strain it through a coffee filter and give it a sniff to make sure it hasn’t gone rancid. Store oil you plan on reusing in an airtight container in a dark place. Reuse with in a month or two, maximum, and if it looks cloudy or smells off, don't use it.

Another good option is donating your used oil. Thanks to a student-run organization at Loyola University Chicago, used oil can be recycled for an eco-friendly cause.

Recycling: From Cooking Oil to Fuel

Oil donated to Loyola University Chicago is processed into biofuel. This clean burning fuel can be used in any vehicle that takes traditional diesel. Loyola uses the biofuel they produce to run their campus outreach van!

As for the parts of cooking oil not used for biofuel? They don’t go to waste, either. Leftover materials from the process are used to make soaps that are sold on campus and used in all campus bathrooms. 

image ©Loyola University Chicago

What you need to know

Dropping off cooking oil or grease to be recycled into biodiesel is easy. Just take your oil in a sealed container to the Institute of Environmental Sustainability at Loyola. Look for the “Oil Donations” sign in the lobby.  And you don’t even need to strain out any food bits — the students will handle that on their own.

As an added bonus, donating your cooking oil is tax-deductible. You can leave a note or send an email to request documentation. 

Drop off Information:

Institute of Environmental Sustainability:
6349 N. Kenmore Ave.
Chicago, IL 60660
Monday–Saturday 9 a.m.–5 p.m.
Look for the "Oil Donation" sign in the lobby.

If you choose not to reuse or recycle your oil, the alternative is to store hot oil in a container, like a glass jar or a metal can. Once cooled, it's safe to place in the trash.

Sources:
ABC 7
Loyola University Chicago

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