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Holiday meal planning to reduce food waste and clogged pipes


Last updated 12/2/2016 at Noon

Leftover turkey can be wrapped up, put in a ziploc bag and frozen so it can be used for a meal later on. JodiJacobson/Thinkstock

SAN DIEGO COUNTY –It is hard to picture 833 million Thanksgiving dinners being thrown directly into the trash, but each year Americans waste that much food between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day alone. Meanwhile, 48.1 million Americans are struggling to avoid hunger daily.

On average, San Diegans throw away five pounds of trash a day, the most in the state. Fifteen percent of that is food waste, adding up to almost 500,000 pounds each year in San Diego alone.

Food that ends up in landfills means wasted money, labor, transportation, water and land resources. Worse, as it breaks down in landfills it produces methane, a gas 25 times more harmful to residents' health and environment than carbon dioxide.

Fortunately, San Diego residents can take small steps to make a big difference this holiday season. By following the tips below from the County of San Diego, residents can save money and help the environment while enjoying their holiday meals.

Reducing waste at home

Buying and preparing the right amount of food can save time and money. Planning ahead to use leftovers in new dishes and setting aside containers for guests to take home leftovers can ensure all prepared food is eaten.

Small steps like placing leftovers and perishable items in the front area of the refrigerator will also make sure food gets eaten before it’s condemned to the landfill. Visit the County of San Diego’s Food: Too Good to Waste! webpage ( for more tips, including how to keep fruits and vegetables fresh longer.

Keeping fats, oils and greases out of the drain

Another important way to protect the environment (and plumbing) is to take care with the oils used for cooking during the holidays. Fats, oils and greases have harmful effects on the environment when not disposed of properly.

In recent years, deep fried turkeys have become an increasingly popular holiday tradition. Frying a turkey uses up to three gallons of cooking oil. If discarded in kitchen sinks or other drains, this oil may block pipes and cause sewage overflow in homes, streets, lawns and the ocean, not to mention severely damage home plumbing systems.

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Contrary to popular belief, mixing oil with soap is not an effective method for preventing sewage backup. Instead, San Diegans should accumulate their oils in a secure container and recycle them at a certified location. Save oil containers and caps/lids for use after cooking.

Once used cooking oil has cooled, pour into empty oil container and cap it. Do not mix chemicals in the used oil and label container “used cooking oil” to avoid confusion. To find the closest drop off location, unincorporated county residents are encouraged to visit the county’s Recycling and Household Hazardous Waste database,, or call 1-877-R-1-EARTH (1-877-713-2784).

Submitted by I Love A Clean San Diego (ILACSD). For more information, visit or call (619) 291-0103.


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