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Used Cooking Oil (UCO) Tanks: Steel vs. Plastic?

Updated: Sep 8, 2022

The lead time throughout the Used Cooking Oil collection industry for plastic or steel tanks currently averages 3-4 months if not longer. There are a few multi-million or billion dollar companies with proprietary tanks in the US that are not sold to the broad market, which have left a limited market for the purchase of quality UCO containers.

Plastic Tanks

In our experience we’ve had a lot of problems with plastic tanks. While they are light, relatively cheap and good for smaller restaurants they are also much more prone to leaks and holes. We had a few cases where a few brand new Norwesco tanks had fittings in the bottom that all leaked once we put them out in the hot Carolina weather which led to reputation damage and the loss of an account (not to mention the time it took to go out and replace the tanks + clean up the mess).

Another consideration in most of the plastic tanks on the market is the size of the main opening and the height of the container. Out of our experience, anything less than 16 inches diameter for the opening is too small for restaurant employees to dump oil into without spilling or causing a safety hazard. The only tanks we were able to find with that large of an opening without a crazy lead time ended up being 4 feet tall, which also turned out to be a hazard and too high for some workers. Below are two types of containers that leaked through the bottom fitting, the white one has an 8 inch lid (too small) and the green one was too tall (4ft).

There are a couple companies out there that build quality plastic tanks as long as you’re willing to wait the long lead time. If you have the cash to carry 3 months of inventory at a time this isn’t a bad bet, but keep in mind if something creates a hole in them they are extremely difficult if not impossible to patch (we had a dump truck back up into one and had to dispose of it).

Steel Tanks

Steel is the industry standard for UCO containers due to their durability, professional look and ease of use. They do, however, come with a larger price tag. Prices and lead times vary within the US and there are only a few that we’ve found that will sell to the open market.

We view steel tanks as a medium to long term investment that service larger restaurants and establishments. The general practice we follow is to provide the container for free but sign a multiyear contract to ensure we can recoup our costs. The nice thing about steel tanks is they last a long time, but they do get dirty and are harder to move from location to location.

After analyzing the market we figured we could do better. We partnered with a nationally recognized fabricator and designed a tank that’s safer and easier than anything we’ve seen from any supplier. With features like self closing lids, a splash proof guard and a lower height, you can see here why our steel tanks are worth taking a look at.

Let's Make Our Future Sustainable!

For smaller UCO collection companies plastic may be a better option if capital or credit is an issue but may be more of a pain than steel tanks. Polyethylene plastic tanks are great for restaurants doing a limited amount of oil (20-100 gallons a month, depending on how often you want to pick up), but steel is generally a better bet for anything more than that. If you do have a bit of extra cash or good enough credit to finance, you can’t go wrong with the long lasting steel tanks.

For more info on our steel tanks and to get a quote on prices and financing, visit our website

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