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Posted July 14, 2017 | 2:25 PM

Cooking Oil Recycling Effort Campaign Rids Pipes of Gunk

Amount of used cooking oil, fat, and grease taken to recycling sites more than doubles

Hillsborough County residents are heeding a call to properly dispose of unwanted cooking oil, grease, and fat, rather than dumping the pipe-clogging crud down the drain.

As hoped, instances of stopped-up sanitary sewer pipes have dropped dramatically.

Since Public Utilities intensified its public awareness campaign - Cooking Oil Recycling Effort (C.O.R.E) - in early 2016, the amount of cooking oil collected at recycling stations and Household Hazardous Waste Collection centers has more than doubled.

That's great news for utility officials and homeowners. The discards collect inside pipes, sewage lines, and sewage lift stations. They can back up home plumbing and cause sewage spills, overflows into streets, and foul odors.

Proper disposal of the gunk prevents the problem. And, thanks largely to increased awareness and more collection sites, that's happening.

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From January through May 2017, the County team overseeing collection of used cooking oil, grease, and fat collected 3,855 gallons of the stuff, and is on pace to exceed its goal of 9,000 gallons for the year. That compares to the 2015 total of 3,698 gallons.

The recycling effort, coupled with Public Utilities' commitment to keeping sewer lines clear of buildup, is making a difference. In 2012, when the C.O.R.E. program launched, there were 38 grease and blockage related sanitary sewer overflows in unincorporated Hillsborough County. In 2016, there were 15 grease and blockage related overflows. To date, this year there have been two.

C.O.R.E. applies to vegetable and animal oils and fats, not motor oil. It targets residential users. Restaurants are subject to mandates and regulations such as grease traps and inspections.

The County sells the collected substances to a recycling business in Mulberry, Florida By Products. "Hillsborough County is doing it the right way," says Jay Ford, the company's president. "They're a notch above."

Transported in large drums to the recycling facility, the discarded liquids are filtered, cleaned, and marketed as yellow grease. Yellow grease is processed into animal feed, biodiesel fuel, or a chemical used in the manufacture of soap, cosmetics, paint, and other products.