Drains

Feed the Barrel: Fuel Your City

By Enid Chiu

With holiday season in full swing, people are busy buying gifts, seeing family, and cooking large meals to feed all those hungry bellies. When there’s cooking, there’s oil – and where does all that cooking oil go?

Cooking Oil Barrel RecepticlePouring used cooking oil down the drain might seem like the most convenient solution, but it can have detrimental impacts. When cooking oil/grease is thrown into kitchen drains and even toilets, it sticks to the sides of your home’s sewer pipes. It can build up and block entire pipes, which can mean:

  • Raw sewage can overflow into your house, yard, street, neighbor’s house, or waterway
  • You will pay for an expensive and messy cleanup
  • You and your family might have contact with disease-causing organisms from the sewage
  • Sewer departments must charge higher bills for operation and maintenance

To avoid this mess, water departments recommend collecting grease and greasy food scraps in a container to throw in the trash for disposal.

The Indonesian community in South Philadelphia, however, is piloting a different solution that recycles the oil for future use AND generates some revenue for the community. With the support of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, they plan on establishing cooking oil drop off barrels at central locations (like places of worship). On a regular basis, an oil recycling company will pick up the oil and pay for each gallon collected. The recycling company uses the oil to make electricity (bio-fuel) and great compost for soil. The money made from the oil collected goes toward improving the community!

The Indonesian community is the first in Philadelphia to pilot residential cooking oil recycling. They have demonstrated a lot of gotong royong – or the ability to come together and work for a common cause. The inaugural oil pouring event at the first established drop off location is occurring today, December 5, 5:30 pm at International Bethel Church, 1619 S Broad Street, Philadelphia (details here).  EPA supports this pilot, which is in line with the goals of EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge.

Do you live in Philadelphia, and have used cooking oil stocking up in your home? Feel free to feed the barrel at International Bethel Church – or consider developing a cooking oil recycling plan for your own community! Learn more about cooking oil recycling here.

About the Author: Enid Chiu is an environmental engineer in the Office of Drinking Water and Source Water Protection. She also serves as the Asian American / Pacific Islander program manager at EPA Region III. Outside of the office, Enid enjoys playing music, exploring new restaurants, and watching football.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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A Better Approach to a Clogged Drain?

By Laura Janson

It happens every so often. One of the drains in my house gets clogged. It is usually the drain in my shower stall or the drain in my bathroom sink. They tend to collect hair.

Being a health-conscious environmentalist, I try not to use harsh chemicals — you know — the ones that contain an irritant that can burn your skin or the inside of your nose? I’ve tried a drain snake, but that requires some elbow grease and sometimes I can’t seem to reach the clog. Why don’t I just use a drain sieve or filter on top of the drains? The bathroom sink is angled so that one will not lay flat. I did find one for the shower that’s easy to clean—stainless steel—and is fine enough to catch hair, but it doesn’t fit in the kids’ tub. What about an environmentally friendly drain cleaner? Good approach, but let’s think outside of the box.

An idea hit me when my brother showed me the filter in my dishwasher that catches large food particles and “foreign objects” like fancy plastic toothpicks. Who knew? Not me, but then I never read the entire manual.

Why not have the same gizmos, those traps they have in many dishwashers, in bathroom drains? Then I could just unscrew the cover on the drain, pull out the trap, remove the hair, put back the cover, and voila, an unclogged drain! It would just take a minute and it would be environmentally friendly.

Calling all faucet manufacturers or entrepreneurs. Find a way to incorporate a filter into every faucet’s design. Then everyone can clean their own drain filters. . . they just have to read the manual to know it’s there.

While you’re thinking about eco-friendly bathroom fixtures, check out all the water efficient appliances from the Water Sense program. Will you be giving your bathroom an eco-makeover?

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.