For San Francisco Bay, winter can bring a surge of pollution from sewage. Often the cause is the cooking and cleanup of rich foods, particularly holiday meals. Cooking rich foods like turkey, roasts, gravy, and desserts creates fats, oil, and grease that get washed down the drain during cleanup of pots, pans, and fryers.
Even small amounts of fat from your kitchen, plus small amounts from all your neighbors, can add up to a sewer line clogged with hardened fat. Sewage can then back up in homes, yards and even neighborhood streets. From there, sewage can be washed into storm drains, where it flows directly into local creeks and the Bay.
Sewage pollution causes problems that range from skin infections in swimmers to disease in sea lions to algae blooms that choke off the oxygen supply of fish and aquatic plants.
We can all keep our kitchens from polluting the Bay—and avoid sewage backups in our homes and neighborhoods.
Here are tips for Bay-friendly fat cleanup:
- Avoid washing these foods down the drain: cooking oil, meat fat, lard, shortening, butter, dairy products, margarine, fatty food scraps, sauces, gravy, and salad dressing.
- Pour cooled fats and oils into a can with a lid, and put the can in the garbage.
- Wipe down greasy pots, pans, and dishes with a paper towel before washing them. Dispose of the paper towel in your kitchen scrap recycling or in the garbage.
- Don’t use hot water or the garbage disposal to wash fats down the drain. Water cools through the pipes, causing fats to harden into clogs further along in the sewer system.
- Drop off large amounts of cooking oil—like used oil from a fryer—at Bay Area recycling locations.
Here are a few locations around the Bay Area where you can recycle large amounts of cooking oil:
Dogpatch Biofuels: 765 Pennsylvania Ave. (between 22nd & 23rd St.), San Francisco
Phone: (415) 642-7378
Central Contra Costa Household Hazardous Waste Facility: 4797 Imhoff Pl., Martinez
Phone: (925) 335-7718
Whole Foods: 230 Bay Place, Oakland
Phone: (510) 834-9800
Photo by Ingrid Taylar (Flickr/CC)