Son Trinh, an employee at Orange Coast Colleges's Recycling Center dumps kitchen grease into a collection bin Thursday. The center is trying to recycle kitchen grease and turkey fat for the holidays. (SCOTT SMELTZER, Daily Pilot / December 2, 2011)

COSTA MESA — For the environmentally conscious who still like deep-fried turkey and other holiday eats, Orange Coast College has a solution.

The OCC Recycling Center, along with the Costa Mesa Sanitary District, has launched a pilot program to collect and recycle residential kitchen grease, oil and fat that would normally get poured down the drain or thrown in the trash.

"I hope people take advantage of this program," said Scott Carroll, sanitary district general manager. "We think this is the first of its kind in California."

The recycling center is collecting the waste products in two, 50-gallon vats that will be picked up and recycled into biofuel, or items like dog food, soap and cosmetics, said OCC Sustainability Director Mike Carey.

The recycling center doesn't pay for the grease and isn't getting paid for it as this point, Carey said.

"We're doing it as a community service," he said. "We're all about the cause."

The program, which began Nov. 21 and runs though Jan. 6, was started during the holidays for a reason.

Deep frying just one turkey, for example, creates 4 gallons of oil, Carroll said.

"We know during the holidays is when people really generate the most grease," he said.

The kitchen staples contaminate the trash trucks and landfills when thrown away, but shouldn't be poured down the drain either, Carey said.

The grease solidifies in the pipes, eventually blocking the drain entirely, Carroll said.

The pipes' contents then have nowhere to go but out a manhole and into storm drains on the way to the ocean, he said.

This, along with tree roots in the top, cause sewer blockages across the state, Carroll said.

The Sanitary District has been looking for a way to prevent the problem increasing in Costa Mesa, he said.

"We have a responsibility as the sanitary district to prevent [sanitary sewer overflows] from occurring," he said.

The college and the district are evaluating the program to see if it should be extended year-round, but already its success has surprised both parities.

Residents have dropped off more than 175 gallons in less than two weeks, and Carey has been fielding calls from residents from around Los Angeles and Orange counties.

"As far as I'm concerned, it's more successful than we thought it would be," Carey said. "Hopefully this will be the start of a city, or countywide, program to collect grease on a wide scale."

Britney.barnes@latimes.com

Twitter: @britneyjbarnes

If You Go

The OCC Recycling Center is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily on Adams Avenue between Harbor Boulevard and Fairview Road.

The center, along with the Costa Mesa Sanitary District, is giving away wider-mouth funnels that snap onto plastic milk jugs to help residents save their kitchen grease. The Sanitary District, 628 W. 19th St., is open 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Fridays.