The used fryer grease industry is a very lucrative business that is somewhat like alternative fuel's best kept secret. There is yet a global awareness combined with participation, as with other recycling methods performed, such as that of paper and plastic. Anyone and everyone who fries their food uses some form of fryer grease, from vegetable oil, corn oil, and canola oil to many other types of vegetable based greases.
The concern with this is the proper disposal of these fatty acids. Beyond this concern for proper disposal is the even bigger concern for reuse of this natural resource. In the food industry, these oils are used over and over until they become blackened and lose their viscosity, when it becomes time for disposal. In restaurants, this usually happens through transporting the used grease to some structured receptacle (or to an above-ground tank behind the restaurant) to await pick-up by a privately owned company specializing in the removal of used grease. In the homes of many individuals, the process of getting rid of this used grease involves simply flushing it down the toilet.
There is however, a tremendous amount of value in used grease, both economically as well as environmentally. The private entities that handle used grease will typically recycle this grease or fryer oil through a process of refining. This is done many times over until the used grease builds up enough viscosity to become usable again. Some restaurant owners also perform this process on a smaller scale, until there is simply no more grease available temporarily. Restaurants generally use a biodegradable filter to rebuild viscosity, remove unwanted byproducts, and extend the life of their cooking oil. Once there is simply no more life left in the fryer grease, the privately owned companies step in and use the more intricate methods of revitalization.
The Process Involved in Recycling Used Fryer Grease
There are many different approaches to recycling used fryer grease for the making of diesel fuel. However, the approaches do have some common variables. The process of this transformation revolves around chemically cutting or sifting the used grease through the use of an alcohol based substance such as methanol and/or a caustic alkaline such as lye. Along with baking soda, the chemical reaction distills the used grease from fatty build up and rejuvenates the oil into an again-usable substance. Some intricate systems automatically perform this process many times over, making for a completely bio-degradable finished product.
Image: Vegetable Oil Tanks, Barge Dock, Wikipedia Commons by George Robinson
The Benefits of Using Recycled Fryer Grease
The end result is that bio-diesel fuel plays a significant role in helping the environment, not to mention the budgets of the many people who use diesel fueled vehicles. Compared to petroleum based oils and gasoline, bio-diesel fuel emits more than 50% less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere when burned.
Diesel fuel is also more affordable to make and has the potential to substitute for the dependency on foreign oil and in turn hinder some global wars as a result. Shipment of the petroleum will also become a money saving aspect, as a lot of dollars are invested by the American government in the transportation, and protection of that transportation, of this petroleum. There is also the elimination of potentially contaminating the oceans across the globe through faulty transportation, such as the many oil spills in history, as well as through pipeline bursts.
Another advantage in the use of bio diesel fuel is the fact that anyone can make it from the comfort of their own home. As privately owned industries have industrial sized plants to convert used fryer grease into diesel fuel, there are also small private vendors that manufacture homemade kits on a smaller scale that allows people to transform their personal use of fryer grease into ready for use diesel fuel.
Government Involvement of Recycling Used Fryer Grease
Because the government has made several proposals and strongly endorses the direction toward researching and using alternative fuels, the question then is; “What support can the government offer for encouraging the local population in recycling their used cooking grease?” As there are laws in effect, after years of legislative debate, for the mandatory recycling of such household and industrial items such as plastics, paper and cardboard, perhaps the government can once again intervene in the support of a recycling program for such a precious and abundant commodity such as fryer grease.
The approach would of course take careful and ingenious planning, for it would be a very tedious and even costly task in attempting to mediate everyone’s usage and disposal of their used grease. However, offering an incentive such as a tax-cut to homeowners or leasing agencies can become a way to influence individuals in supporting a cause that would help themselves and the world as a whole in the long run. Provisions of oil bins and drums for proper disposal can be conveniently placed in areas to promote people in proper disposal, rather than contaminating the sewer systems.
The ideal scenario is that government and the general population can work hand in hand toward a cause that would only save the planet and make it a more suitable place to live for many years to come. With the rise of “Going-Green” campaigns, it is only fitting that an attempt at such an effective process at very little cost be given an opportunity.
Biofuels Coop: Straight Vegetable Oil (PDF)
Organic Mechanic: Diesel Conversion Kit (Diesel to dual-fuel with SVO)
Shenzhen HJ Technology Co. Ltd. Conversion Kits (CNG kits for diesel and gasoline engines)