Municipalities around the country are adopting new programs to keep used cooking oil out of landfills while generating revenue and contributing to a new alternative energy future with the production of biofuels.

In Stamford, Conn., the city has started collecting used cooking oil at their Katrina Mygatt Recycling Center in the hopes that residents will recycle the spent oil rather than throwing it away. The used product is cleaned so it can be used as a clean-burning alternative fuel. For every gallon of oil the city collects, it is able to make 40 cents in revenue. The revenue is a result of a partnership with Connecticut-based vegetable oil-processing company Biopur. The company has provided the city with a 150-gallon collection container. Residents drop off the oil when they recycle their other household items. Biopur takes care of all of the collection and transportation costs.

“People can come down and bring their containers of cooking oil and pour it into our large container,” said Dan Colleluori, Stamford’s supervisor of solid waste and recycling. “It will help us by diverting that heavy liquid out of the garbage. It’s better for the earth, and the city will make revenue out of it.”

Programs to recycle used cooking oil

Programs to recycle used cooking oil for conversion to biofuels are increasingly being integrated into municipal recycling programs, often with economic benefits for local businesses or the municipality and always as a benefit to the environment. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons

Other cities are also beginning to integrate cooking oil recycling into their recycling programs. In Jersey City, N.J., a partnership between the Jersey City Economic Development Corporation and Grease Lightning, a cooking oil recycling company, is helping the city in its continuing efforts to become greener.

In the Jersey City program, Grease Lightning collects used cooking oil directly from local restaurants and then pays the businesses 10 cents for every gallon of oil collected. Prior to the program, many residents had to pay companies to remove and dispose of the oil. Now, Grease Lightning provides local businesses with containers to hold their used grease and then regularly picks up the full containers and replaces them. Grease Lightning sends a check to each business for the oil recycled through the service. The recycled oil is refined locally into biodiesel.

Both small and large businesses “can reap a financial benefit as well as contribute to the overall sustainability of the city and the planet,” said Steve Lipski, executive director of the Jersey City Economic Development Corporation.

Waste management of cooking oil is an environmental and public works concern because oils are lighter than water and can contaminate large bodies of water even in small quantities. In addition, cooking oils can cause serious problems if poured down the kitchen sink because it can cause build-up that could block pipes completely. Traditionally, individuals have been educated to allow their cooking oils to solidify and then dispose of them with the regular garbage. However, the Stamford, Jersey City and other innovative cooking oil recycling programs are demonstrating that recycling used oil can be both economically and environmentally sustainable.

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