Recycling Used Cooking Oil and Grease
What To Do With Used Cooking Oil
If you have ever wondered what to do with your used cooking oil, you can wonder no more: recycle it to make biodiesel. Did you know that you're not supposed to pour it down the drain? What if you could really help your local community with jobs and cleaning the air? You can!
Recently, I had the opportunity to visit Blue Ridge Biofuels in Asheville, NC. I was interested in touring the organization because I definitely try to live as sustainably as I can. I saw this as one more opportunity to make a difference in creating a cleaner planet.
Blue Ridge Biofuels (BRB), Green Opportunities, and Metropolitan Sewage District of Buncombe County are three organizations that have come together to create a pilot program that allows citizens to recycle their cooking oil.
© C. Calhoun 2012. All rights reserved.
Cooking Oil Recycling
The idea was born from a need for biodiesel. When BRB found an opportunity for a grant to launch a program to make it easy to recycle cooking oil, they jumped.
With the grant secured, the Cooking Oil Recycling Program began in July of 2011. It will continue through July of 2012. BRB is hoping that the program will have enough momentum and publicity to sustain itself once the grant period ends.
They are in the business of creating biofuel and this was another opportunity to secure a source to help them make biodiesel - for so many positive reasons.
Used Cooking Oil Facts
Every year, the average person uses about 66 gallons of cooking oil. Multiply that by the hundreds of millions of people who live in the United States, and you’ve got a staggering amount of cooking oil consumed - and then disposed - in this country.
A lot of that oil goes down the drain. Many consumers don’t know that they should never pour cooking oil down the drain.
In the city, it builds up in pipes and can cause blockages. These blockages force cities across the US to spend thousands of dollars, often hundreds of thousands of dollars annually, to fix these clogged pipes. That’s a lot of money that could be used for many other useful projects.
If you have a septic tank, too much oil down the train can cause the tank to back up. The pipes in your home may also become blocked – costing hundreds of dollars in repairs.
The city of Asheville, NC had to spend $200,000 recently to clear out clogged pipes due to oil build up.
Putting cooking oil into the trash isn’t really the answer, either. It goes to the landfill where it will never be used as a valuable energy resource.
Don't Dispose Cooking Oil - Recycle Instead!
What’s a person to do?
You can recycle that oil!
The next time you cook a meal and you have left over oil – whether it’s from cooking bacon, pork, or with any type of vegetable oil, you can pour it into a reusable container such as a jar or coffee can. Just be sure the oil is cool before you pour it into your container. Also, solid fats like shortening are not recyclable. Be sure to never mix motor oil in with the vegetable oil.
If you live in Western North Carolina, you can use the Cooking Oil Recycling Program, or COR. It is the only program of its kind in the US so far.
The COR program has over 16 oil recycling bins dispersed throughout the Asheville area and surrounding communities. BRB is working to add more cooking oil recycling stations.
Currently, COR collects about 400 gallons of used cooking oil monthly from these stations. They have their own built-in filters that keep out food and other items that need to be removed from the oil.
When your jar or coffee can is full of used oil, you just take the container to the oil recycling bin nearest you, and pour it in.
Filters in the bins help separate oil from food matter. You can reuse your container again, or even recycle that.
Will You Recycle Your Cooking Oil
What Happens After You Recycle Cooking Oil?
From there, Blue Ridge Biofuels collects the oil in their diesel trucks. The oil then goes into their large-capacity holding tank.
In the picture, the holding tank is quite colorful. The company is located in one of the most "creative" parts of Asheville: The River Arts District. Many old warehouse buildings have found new life housing artists, restaurants and businesses.
Why recycle oil? Why Not Just Throw It Away?
First, it helps keep otherwise incredibly useful oil out of the landfills – freeing up space and resources.
Second, it supports the local economy. Because the oil comes from local sources, it won’t have to travel far, which helps keep the expense down. The used cooking oil also supports local businesses: BRB can pay restaurants and businesses for their used cooking oil and then make biodiesel. It's a cyclical process.
Third, it is much cleaner than petroleum-based diesel. Some estimates are that it reduces emissions by 78% as compared to regular petroleum-based diesel.
Fourth, it helps to create jobs in the local economy. Blue Ridge Biofuels has had to hire more and more people due to an increase in demand for biodiesel that came, in part, from community members who recycled their cooking oil.
Fifth, it reduces US dependence on petroleum – from foreign and domestic sources. Just think: with biodiesel, we would worry less about petroleum oil spills out at sea. Local economies can flourish with innovations in green technologies that use renewable resources directly from the community and then put those resources right back in.
Find a Cooking Oil Recycling Center in Your Area
Though the COR program in Asheville is unique, you may be able to recycle used cooking oil in your area. It may involve you taking the oil to a recycling center or hazardous waste facility. You often have to label the container it's in, too, so be sure to check. Check Earth911.com to see what you can do in your area.
Or, if you don't have the time/resources to take cooking oil and you have a diesel car, you can use your vegetable oil to make some biodiesel of your own. Poshcoffeeco teaches you how in his hub.
Still, if you can help your community, be sure to recycle, and help green businesses grow.
Also, a special thank you goes out to Kymber of Blue Ridge Biofuels who provided me with much of the information in this hub.