Getting more out of grease benefits the environment—
and the bottom line.
By Laura Taxel
Once, grease was garbage. You paid to get
rid of the nasty stuff after it had done its
duty cooking potatoes, onion rings, oysters
and chicken. But thanks to a growing
interest in converting it to biofuel, used
cooking oil became a desirable material that
volunteers were willing to haul away for free.
Once it had value, it was also worth stealing.
A May 30, 2008, article in The New York
Times reported on oil thefts in 20 states.
integrating environmentally responsible
practices into day-to-day restaurant
operations. It’s no wonder more and more
owners and managers are opting in.
But some have found other innovative
ways to turn grease into gold, ensuring
that this waste product gets a second, and
sometimes even a third, life that benefits
people, planet and profit margins.
two facts prompted the decision to invest
$3,000 to modify the truck so it could run
on straight cooking grease.
“It goes through a paper filter coming out
of the fryer, then through a 10-micron
mesh filter,” Howell explains. We store it
in barrels, so any water that might have
gotten in it settles to the bottom. From
there, we can pump it right into the truck.”
In the past couple of years, many companies
around the country started paying
restaurateurs for the privilege of collecting
used cooking oil. Going this route makes
economic sense and is a doable step toward
Driving the bottom line
The Frysmith hit the streets of Santa
Monica, Calif., in November 2009. Every
item on this food truck’s menu starts
with french fries. Partners Erik Cho and
Brook Howell log many miles and
use gallons of canola oil
every week. Those
Currently, they produce enough fuel
to keep the tank filled. But if they
start driving further, they can get
waste vegetable oil from other mobile
vendors. “The system doesn’t work with
hydrogenated fats, and some trucks use
lard,” says Howell. “Plus, the oil must be
clean and free of contaminants. So we’ll
have to be selective.”
David Selig, founder/owner of Rice
Restaurants, with four locations in
Manhattan and Brooklyn, considers the
soybean oil from his fryers an asset. Staff
replace it every two days, and the company
delivery van runs on the used stuff. The
This delivery van runs on used soybean
oil from the fryers at Rice Restaurants
in Manhattan and Brooklyn, cutting the
company’s fuel costs from $100-$200
to $20 per month.