Restaurants, hotels, and others in the food service industry go through gallons of cooking oil every week. Where does all of the used cooking oil go? Ideally, used cooking oil is recycled and turned into biofuel and glycerin, but not every state ensures this happens.
Government initiatives help promote used cooking oil. In Oregon, it’s illegal for businesses to dump used cooking oil down a drain. It clogs pipes and creates blockages in sewer lines. It needs to be collected and recycled. What other measures are being used to ensure used cooking oil is recycled instead of wasted?
The Environmental and Economic Benefits of Used Cooking Oil Recycling
On its own, used cooking oil isn’t hazardous to the environment, but that doesn’t mean it’s not problematic. If you’ve never heard of a fatberg, you should check out some pictures of fatbergs online. They occur when items like baby wipes, plastic wrappers, and menstrual products get caught up in grease that solidifies as it gets cold. This blocks pipes and slows or prevents wastewater from flowing through sewers correctly.
If your restaurant happens to have a septic system, which is less common in a city, solidified oil blocks pipes into the septic tank and out to the leach field. If the grease is blasted out, it’s going to be a hefty bill. You might need to have lines replaced, which is even worse. Even if you’re on a sewer line, you could be fined for creating a blockage. Plus, any media attention that points the finger at your business can damage your reputation.
What if you pick an area of your yard and dump the oil instead? It isn’t biodegradable and will be in the soil for years. Plus, it’s often illegal as it’s likely to draw raccoons, bears, rats, etc. If you’re anywhere near a waterway, that oil can get into a stream, lead to a river, and get into a lake, all of which harms fish and other aquatic animals. It can harm insects that animals need for survival. It can kill amphibians, worms, and so many other creatures. It needs to be recycled properly.
When you recycle used cooking oil, you keep oil from the pipes in sewer systems. You lessen the burden wastewater treatment plants face in the early stages of wastewater treatment. You also help reduce the dependence on petroleum, as used cooking oil can be turned into biodiesel, which helps fuel diesel engines.
Examples Where Government Initiatives Help Promote Recycling of Cooking Oil
The U.S. doesn’t currently have any laws in place, but as the nation moves away from a dependency on gas-powered engines, biodiesel is going to be a game-changer. Electric vehicles are one option, but some areas still lack an abundance of charging stations, and long-distance trips are difficult when there aren’t enough stations for the number of drivers. Biodiesel is an option that produces less emissions and reuses something that’s generated every day.
One U.S. city, Chicago, made used cooking oil recycling a beneficial program for residents. Residents can bring used cooking oil to the Institute of Environmental Sustainability at Loyola University between the hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. All donations are tax-deductible, so you’ll reduce the amount of taxes you owe. The glycerin from biodiesel production goes into a soap sold at Loyola and is used in all campus bathrooms.
Chinese businesses and residents use more than 14 million tons of cooking oil each year. It’s a lot of waste oil, but the Chinese government has several trials going to determine the feasibility of collecting used cooking oil and converting it to biodiesel. Currently, only 10 to 15% of used cooking oil is recycled and processed at biorefineries, and those facilities have only reached 50% capacity at any time. Growth doesn’t seem likely to strain these facilities, so the government is testing to see just how much could be recycled and processed.
The Tiganokinisi Program is a partnership between the AKTI Research Centre, the Cyprus Pedagogical Institute, and the Cyprus Ministry of Education and Culture. Residents are invited to donate their used cooking oil to local schools to be converted to biodiesel. The money that’s returned to schools goes towards green initiatives like botanical gardens, water-saving devices, and renewable energy sources within the schools.
In 2019, the Indian government announced that all state-run oil companies would collect used cooking oil to produce biodiesel. After a three-year trial, the deadline for reaching ethanol blends of 20% and 5% biodiesel blends moved from 2030 to 2025. Everyone knew the initial 2030 deadline was ambitious, but the trial helped experts know what would work and what more needed to be done.
Starting in 2023, Japanese businesses and town governments are to set up collection points for residents to recycle used cooking oil. To ensure the ease of recycling, sites are being set up in grocery stores, gas stations, and municipal buildings. The cooking oil that’s collected will be picked up and processed at a biodiesel facility. The three-year study will be completed in March 2026, at which point the government will determine if it’s a feasible recycling program that can be added permanently.
What Can Oregon Businesses Do?
If you’re a restaurant, hotel, or other business generating used cooking oil, talk to NW Biofuel. We come to your business and collect your used cooking oil for local processing. You do your part to keep the environment clean and supply a local biofuel facility with the oil needed to make biofuel. You get money for the used cooking oil, which helps lower the cost of the city-mandated grease trap cleanings and inspections required of your business.
NW Biofuel drops off collection containers that we pick up every week, every couple of weeks, or every month, depending on your needs. If you find containers filling up before we’re due to pick up the used cooking oil, call us and we’ll arrive within 24 hours. We bring that oil to a local facility for processing.
You get a credit on your bill for the oil we collect. That reduces the already low cost of our grease trap cleaning and inspection. We are authorized by the city and provide them with the necessary paperwork proving you are in compliance. You won’t deal with fines and penalties for not doing everything required to keep your grease trap in working order.
If your grease trap ever needs repairs, we’ll let you know and make sure things are in good working order as quickly as possible. We can also install a new grease trap if needed. If you are opening a restaurant or food service and need to bring the kitchen up to compliance, we’ll help you. Give NW Biofuel a call or reach us online to learn more.