November 25, 2023
Last year, during the week after Thanksgiving, Rosa Cruz, manager of Coastal Byproducts in Oxnard, received an unusual phone call from a homeowner in Montecito.
“Can you please come collect cooking oil from my house?” the caller asked.
Cruz explained the minimum requirements of her company, saying, “Drop-off here is free, but I’m sorry, we have a minimum of 20 gallons for free pickups. May I instead direct you to a restaurant in your area that we collect from? They allow customers to add cooking oil to their barrels.”
Surprisingly, the homeowner met the 20-gallon minimum. “Their turkey-fry Thanksgiving party must have been huge,” Cruz said.
Similarly, in a prior year, a caller from Oak Park met the minimum. In that case, the collection was for 50 bottles of expired cooking oil.
“The resident said the bottles were purchased for an experiment,” Cruz said. “I didn’t ask any questions.”
For the rest of us who deep-fry a turkey or sizzle a pan of empanadas this holiday season, Coastal Byproducts’ year-round site in Oxnard, at 1891 Sunkist Circle, allows free drop-off. No appointment is necessary, but drops are only accepted from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday through Friday.
As Cruz suggested, drop-off at a restaurant is also an option for those willing to ask for help from the manager of a local eatery with a 55 or 90 gallon black drum, usually in the same enclosure as the trash container. Restaurants pay for “trap cleanout” of their fat, oil and grease, but companies such as Coastal Byproducts collect restaurants’ cooking oil in these drums without a charge. Coastal Byproducts trucks the waste to recyclers for conversion into biodiesel.
If recycling is not practical enough, disposal requires guidelines.
The most important rule is to not dump fat, oil or grease down drains. Last year’s Thanksgiving edition of “Pipeline,” the newsletter of Ventura Water, warned customers what happens when these wastes cool and harden. They can clog sewer systems. The newsletter suggested pouring the waste into a can, letting it harden, and sealing the can before disposing in the trash.
Restaurants may not legally use this convenient alternative to recycling, but in small amounts, individual households are unlikely to cause problems for trash trucks, especially if the solidification is enhanced with a medium such as kitty litter.
Solidifying other liquids with kitty litter also turns them into solids, which in some cases are legal to dispose in household trash. However, some liquids are household hazardous waste and should not be managed at home.
Auto fluids are an example. Motor oil is an obvious hazardous waste. Certified collection centers at some auto parts stores and, upon request, car maintenance businesses even pay to accept dropped off motor oil.
Less well known is the environmental danger posed by dumped antifreeze. The ethylene glycol in antifreeze is dangerous to pets and wildlife because they are attracted to its sweet taste. Even a teaspoon of antifreeze can be fatal to pets if ingested. Seeped into the ground, antifreeze is also dangerous because it can contaminate groundwater with heavy metals such as lead.
Antifreeze is not generally accepted for drop-off at local businesses, but like motor oil, it can be accepted at specially designated drop-off sites called ABOPs, an acronym for antifreeze, batteries, oil and paint. These centers, which usually also accept electronics and fluorescent bulbs, do not require appointments. Compared to full hazardous waste collection events, ABOPs are far more economical for local governments to sponsor.
Paint is another common household liquid waste banned from garbage. Mixing even small amounts of leftover paint with kitty litter to solidify it is technically considered “treatment of hazardous waste,” which is illegal. However, residents may place into their garbage a lidless can containing a small hockey puck of paint dried through naturally occurring evaporation.
A better solution for paint is provided by paint stores participating in the PaintCare drop-off program. Participating stores can be found at www.paintcare.org.
David Goldstein, an environmental resource analyst with the Ventura County Public Works Agency, can be reached at 805-658-4312 or firstname.lastname@example.org.