The holiday season is quickly approaching, and along with it, winter rains. Many people don’t realize that this combination can lead directly to sewage spills in San Francisco Bay.
Cooking rich holiday meals creates fat, oil and grease that get washed down the drain during the cleanup of dishes, pots, pans and fryers. Over time, cooking oil and grease solidify into thick layers and build up on the inside of sewer lines and drainpipes, causing clogs. These clogs can cause sewage to back up into backyards, driveways and neighborhood streets.
When backups occur, untreated sewage can flow into storm drains and local creeks that feed into San Francisco Bay, harming the marine ecosystem and wildlife that depend on healthy water. Untreated sewage also poses a health hazard to swimmers, kitesurfers, and kayakers who use the Bay year-round and are put at risk of exposure to pathogens and industrial chemicals if they are out on the Bay after a sewage spill.
“Keeping grease out of kitchen drains can help directly reduce winter sewage spills into San Francisco Bay. Residents should be aware that even small amounts of grease can contribute to clogs and spills. Fortunately, these spills can be easily prevented by proper disposal and recycling of cooking oil,” says Deb Self, Executive Director of San Francisco Baykeeper.
San Francisco Baykeeper’s Tips for a Bay-Friendly Holiday Season
- Pour cooled fat, oil and grease into a can with a lid, or mix it with an absorbent material such as cat litter, and dispose of in the kitchen compost container or garbage.
- Wipe down greasy pots, pans and dishes with a paper towel. Dispose of the paper towel in your kitchen compost or in the garbage.
- Don’t use hot water or the garbage disposal to wash grease down the drain. After the water cools in the pipes, the grease hardens and causes clogs further along in the sewer system.
- Drop off large amounts of cooking oil—such as the oil used to fry a turkey—at recycling locations throughout the Bay Area. See the following list of San Francisco and East Bay recycling centers or go to www.baykeeper.org.
In the East Bay
San Francisco Baykeeper and the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) are working together to educate residents about preventing sewage backups caused by fats, oil and grease by recycling their cooking oil. Here is list of holiday cooking oil collection sites for East Bay residents:
- EBMUD Wastewater Treatment Plant: 2020 Wake Avenue, Oakland, Phone 510-287-1651
Go to the guard station for directions to the self-service receptacle.
Open seven days a week for all EBMUD residential customers.
- West Contra Costa Integrated Waste Management Authority: 101 Pittsburg Avenue, Richmond, Phone 888-412-9277; Open Thursdays and Fridays, and the first Saturday of the month, 9 am to 4 pm
- Central Contra Costa Household Hazardous Waste Facility: 4797 Imhoff Place, Martinez, Phone 800-646-1431; Open Monday – Saturday, 9 am to 4 pm
In San Francisco
Residents in San Francisco can participate in San Francisco's Greasecycle Program, which turns used cooking oil into biofuel. For more information, visit: http://www.sfgreasecycle.org/. Here is a list of cooking oil collection sites for San Francisco residents.
- Whole Foods SOMA: 399 4th Street (at Harrison Street), Phone: 415-618-0050; Open every day during store hours, 8am to 10pm
- Whole Foods Franklin: 1765 California Street (at Franklin Street), Phone: 415-674-0500; Open every day during store hours, 8am to 10pm
- Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council Recycling Center (HANC): 755 Frederick St. (at Arguello Blvd.), Phone: 415-753-2971; Monday to Saturday 9am to 4pm, Sunday 12pm (noon) to 4pm
- Doogpatch Biofuels: 765 Pennsylvania Ave. (between 22nd & 23rd St.), Phone: 415-643-3435 Tuesday to Friday, 11am to 7pm, Saturday 11am to 4 pm, closed on Sunday and Monday
- Household Drop-off Waste Center: Recycle Road between 401 and 501 Tunnel Avenue, Phone: 415-330-1400; Thursday, Friday and Saturday, from 8am to 4pm
Wondering how cooking oil recycling works with San Francisco's new compost rules? Large amounts of oil or grease should be recycled for biofuel whenever possible. Small amounts of grease and fat can go into your compost heap.
San Francisco Baykeeper is the Bay's pollution watchdog, using science and advocacy to enforce clean water laws and hold polluters accountable. For more information visit us at www.baykeeper.org.