Don't ruin your pipes: Learn how to properly dispose of fat, oil, and grease.

Sitting down with family with a plate of food that's spilling over with mashed potatoes, homemade gravy, collard greens, baked macaroni and cheese, and sweet potato pie is one of the warmest memories of the holiday season. But as we head back to the kitchen for the second plate, let's not forget about the importance of the proper disposal of fat, oil, and grease (FOG), especially for those who love to fry the turkey.

Poured down the drain (intentionally or unintentionally), FOG can cause major sewage backups or a buildup in your pipes, leading to costly repairs for homeowners. No one wants a clogged sewer system during the holidays!

Every day washing of plates, pots, pans, and cooking equipment - such as turkey fryers - sends FOG down the drain, which can build up in the sewer system over time. FOG may not seem harmful as a warm liquid, but once it cools, the fat, oil, and grease harden and can cause major blockages in your home's plumbing or septic tank. The County's sewer collection system can also be affected, which could result in overflows onto streets and waterways.

Recycling used cooking oil during the holiday season is a wonderful way to ensure it doesn't end up clogging your home plumbing or causing environmental harm.

Five simple ways to fight holiday FOG:

  1. Keep your drain fat-free. Cool it, bottle it, and recycle it. Pour cooled fat, oil, and grease carefully into a container with a tight lid on it.

  2. It's not just FOG. In addition to fat, oil, and grease, FOG also includes meat fats, lard, shortening, butter, margarine, food scraps, dairy products, batters, icing, dressing, and especially a holiday staple: gravy.

  3. When in doubt, throw it out. Food scraps containing FOG belong in the trash. Even if you have a garbage disposal in your sink, leftover FOG from meal preparation and cooked substances can build up and leave your pipes vulnerable to a costly plumbing issue.

  4. Scrape your plate. Scrape all your remaining food scraps from your plates, pots, pans, and fryers into your trash can before you wash your dishes. Avoid the garbage disposal and use something as simple as a strainer in your sink to catch unwanted food scraps. Before washing your plates and cooking supplies, use a paper towel to absorb and wipe off excess FOG and toss it in the trash.

  5. Recycle FOG. Hillsborough County has a Cooking Oil Recycling Effort (CORE) program that collects used cooking oil to prevent clogging your home plumbing and the County's sewage collection systems with expensive repairs. Find your closest CORE location.

During the holidays, when there's typically more cooking and thus more used oil, it's especially important to be mindful of its proper disposal. Taking these steps can help maintain clean plumbing, protect the environment, and support your County's recycling efforts.