Cooking Waste Becomes Fuel

February 14, 2014

(Photo by Alexandra Olgin-KJZZ)
The Biotane truck pumps used cooking oil from restaurants and transports it back to be processed.
(Photo by Alexandra Olgin-KJZZ)
Used cooking oil is sucked out of a pot with a large black vacuum into a truck.

 Used cooking oil cannot be discarded like other trash or dumped down the drain, so many restaurants sell their grease to recycling companies.

This past holiday season Mesa offered a program for anyone in the city to recycle their cooking oil. Bins at five fire stations in Mesa were filled with used cooking oil. City Spokesperson Kimberly Nelson said it is important for people to understand how to properly dispose of the waste.

“The thing that we try to get across to people is they think they can sometimes pour it down the drain and that it’s okay and that it’s not harming anything and they don’t have a problem with it initially. But, that grease does harden and it can you know, and its makes blockages in the sewer system," said Nelson. 

Nelson said more than 650 gallons of grease was turned into an equal amount of biodiesel. On the other side of the Valley in Goodyear, a long black vacuum sucks more than 250 gallons of restaurants used cooking oil from a square black container into Biotane’s truck. Biotane did not take part in Mesa’s holiday collection program but does recycle used cooking grease.

“Liquid gold is what I like to call it. It’s worth a lot of money," said Ryan Parsons. 

Parsons works for the biodiesel recycling company, and this liquid gold does not smell precious. It has a stench of a food waste, combined with oily trash. Nonetheless, Parsons buys this valuable grease from 216 restaurants in Arizona for about 50 cents a gallon and recycles it into, roofing material, soap, tire paint or biodiesel fuel.

“It can go directly into any diesel engine motor and run right away," Parsons said. 

Parsons said many gas stations blend this fuel into the diesel they sell. Back in Mesa the grease collection during the holidays was so successful the city is looking into offering it year around. Phoenix, Peoria and Scottsdale use biodiesel in some city vehicles and equipment, and the Deer Valley school buses also use that fuel.