NOW YOU'RE COOKING WITH GREASE

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             Now You’re CookINg
                with Grease
                    No longer just the fringe fuel choice of hobbyists, waste cooking oil has
                    moved front and center in the biodiesel explosion, and cities are leading
                                       the way with innovative programs.



                                                      By Hamida Kinge
                                             Illustration by Fogelson-Lubliner




        W
                    ith his smart spectacles, dark brown hair         Waste oil recycling promises major environ-
                    and crisp jeans, Josh Eriksen may look        mental benefits. A study by the National Renewable
                    like the clean-cut guy next door, but he      Energy Laboratory has shown that biodiesel
        isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. He’s just finished   significantly reduces emissions of carbon dioxide,
        a pick-up of several five-gallon containers of waste      the most prominent greenhouse gas, as well as
        vegetable oil that once fried tempura at a local          emissions of diesel particulate matter and toxic
        sushi restaurant.                                         compounds. And a 2004 report by the International
            Standing in front of his home in Alexandria,          Energy Agency calculated that the U.S. produces
        Va., he describes how he spent $850 on a biodiesel        enough waste cooking oil to make 500 million gal-
        conversion kit for his 1985 Mercedes sedan two and        lons of biodiesel a year.
        a half years ago; he has fueled his car on waste oil          While city, state and federal biodiesel fuel use
        ever since. “I think that kit has paid for itself four    isn’t new, in the last two years municipalities have
        times over by now,” Eriksen says [his name has been       begun to recycle and consume waste oil, once the
        changed for the sake of privacy]. He won’t need to        domain of do-it-yourself hobbyists like Eriksen.
        buy regular diesel any time soon — and has even           From start-up programs in some smaller Southern
        considered going into business with a friend con-         cities, to the Bay Area’s sophisticated “closed loop”
        verting cars to biodiesel, possibly buying a truck to     plan, to New York City’s recent bioheat mandate,
        pick up and sell the waste oil.                           cities are grabbing their slice of the grease pie.
            Biodiesel is a non-toxic, renewable fuel source
        that diesel engines can burn with little or no            The Southern BIY (Blend-It-Yourself)
        modification. It can power anything from a car to         Movement
        an airplane, and can even fuel domestic and com-          In Alexandria, Eriksen finds restaurants and other
        mercial boilers. It consists of methyl esters created     businesses offering their waste oil by scanning
        by mixing virgin vegetable oil, waste vegetable           the Vegetable Oil Exchange Web site. The Web
        oil, waste animal fat or a combination of the three       site is not the product of the grassroots waste oil
        with methanol (another byproduct of the process,          subculture, but rather a program of Montgomery
        glycerin, is often used in soaps).                        County, Md.’s waste management department. Its
            According to the National Biodiesel Board             audience extends throughout Maryland, parts of
        (NBB), production of biodiesel reached 250 million        Virginia and even Pennsylvania. In addition to the
        barrels in 2006 in the United States. That makes          Vegetable Oil Exchange, the program provides a
        it the fastest growing sector of the renewable fuel       central location where local residents can drop
        market. Manufacturing plants have been around             off their waste oil; the county then turns the oil
        for decades but are now multiplying at breakneck          over to a company that converts it into biodiesel.
        speed, and so too are waste oil recycling companies,      Rick Dimont, manager of the county’s hazardous
        capitalizing on the industry’s growth.                    waste and waste reduction program, says they’ve




 americancity.org
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                       by Hamida Kinge
                Illustration by Gary Fogelson




Waste oil from frying food can be converted into biodiesel.




                                          
				
DOCUMENT INFO
Description: While city, state and federal biodiesel fuel use isn't new, in the last two years municipalities have begun to recycle and consume waste oil. From start-up programs in some smaller Southern cities, to the Bay Area's sophisticated "closed loop" plan, to New York City's recent bioheat mandate, cities are grabbing their slice of the grease pie. In Alexandria, restaurants and other businesses offer their waste oil by scanning the Vegetable Oil Exchange Web site. The Web site is a program of Montgomery County, MD's waste management department. The program provides a central location where local residents can drop off their waste oil; the county then turns the oil over to a company that converts it into biodiesel. In an effort to reduce carbon emissions 30% by 2030, New York City currently uses bioheat, a blend of conventional heating oil and biodiesel, to heat some of its buildings.
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