Vegetable oil is used across the world to cook and prepare food. Vegetable oil can also be used to power vehicles that can run on biodiesel. But is vegetable oil biodegradable and is it harmful to the environment?
What is Vegetable Oil?
Vegetable oil is a generic term used to describe any cooking oil derived from plants. Common types of vegetable oil include sunflower oil, rapeseed oil, canola oil and olive oil.
The seed, nut or fruit of a plant is processed (usually by mechanical pressing) to extract the oil from within. This oil is then usually refined further and bottled for use.
Is Vegetable Oil Biodegradable?
No, vegetable oil is not biodegradable.
Vegetable oil does not biodegrade effectively when it is disposed of in our natural environment. This is because oxygen and water cannot efficiently assist in the decomposition process due to the nature and molecular structure of oil.
This can cause confusion because vegetable oil is a naturally derived organic substance, but the EPA are very clear on the damage that vegetable oil spills and vegetable oil dumping can cause to the natural environment.
Is Vegetable Oil Eco Friendly?
The sustainability of vegetable oil varies by type. Palm oil production is responsible for deforestation across SE Asia which means that it isn’t environmentally friendly or sustainable.
Sunflower oil on the other hand is much more sustainable and has far less of a negative ecological impact than palm oil and many other types of vegetable oil.
The other part of the equation is the damage caused by vegetable oil disposal. Vegetable oil is often poured into the ground which has a detrimental impact to nearby watercourses due to groundwater contamination.
Pouring vegetable oil down storm drains will also pollute lakes and rivers whereas pouring it down foul drains causes blockages and infrastructure damage.
Vegetable oil is not biodegradable but it can be sustainable if produced and disposed of responsibly.
Never pour used vegetable oil into the ground. Instead, take it to your local waste recycling centre or donate it for biodiesel.