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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Don't dump that oil down the drain

By Wanda A. Adams
Advertiser Food Editor

Our city's arteries have a fat problem.

That turkey you deep-fried for Thanksgiving? Those drippings you virtuously decided not to use in the gravy? That bacon fat from an indulgent family breakfast the morning after?

Betcha tipped it down the drain, right? We all did. And that's the problem.

Tim Steinberger, director of the Honolulu Department of Environmental Services, said most residential areas are served by relatively small sewage collection pipes.

Grease, which solidifies in cold water, tends to grab onto the irregular surfaces of the pipes, just like an artery being blocked by cholesterol. Dish soap just breaks it into small particles, which readily adhere to form deposits.

How big is the problem? "When you look at how many people are actually connected to the collections system — we're talking well over half the island — every time you put a little bit of grease down the drain, that means your neighbor is doing that, too, and his neighbor, too," said Steinberger.

A further complication is that we all tend to wash dishes at about the same time, meaning more opportunity for fat to meet and shake hands in the drains. For this reason, condo- and apartment-rich neighborhoods like Makiki are at particular risk for blockages.

You're thinking, "Well, what else am I supposed to do with grease? First they tell us not to eat it, then they tell us not to throw it away."

Third option: Send it to be incinerated.

Steinberger sounds a bit like Martha Stewart gone green when he explains his solution: milk cartons. Rinse 'em out, throw in some shredded newspaper, paper bags or paper towels, then pour in the cooled grease. Encase that in a plastic bag to prevent odors from escaping and put it in the trash.

Don't use anything breakable, such as a bottle or rigid plastic container, because that will burst in the trash compactor, and the grease eventually will end up in the ocean.

If you've engaged in a particularly large frying project, use an oil recycling kit from an automotive store. Or, if you've got several gallons, take it to Pacific Biodiesel on Sand Island. They can recycle it into a form of diesel fuel. (This is how restaurants handle the problem.)

Bottom line, as the city's ad campaign says: "Don't be a pain in the drain."