‘There’s oil in those grills!’ – Turn it from wasteful to useful

September 5th, 2019 |  Mentions

Originally published by Pizza Marketplace

When it comes to reduction of restaurant industry food waste, a lot of action has taken place and goals have been set, including just four years ago when the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency announced the first ever domestic goal to cut food loss and waste in half by 2030. This past April, those two agencies joined with the Food and Drug Administration to issue the FY2019-2020 Federal Interagency Strategy with the three agencies agreeing to coordinate actions around food loss and waste awareness, research, tool development and much more. These efforts are already impacting food service and will only continue to do so, but pizza restaurateurs who want to play a part in this critical effort have some options to help do so efficiently.

First of all, restaurateurs should be aware that tools are available to help in food waste reduction efforts, beginning with Rethink Food Waste Through Economics and Data’s (ReFED) guide and toolkit. But for the purposes of this article, let’s just take a closer look at how brands can cut waste of a ubiquitous kitchen staple in just about any restaurant: cooking oil.

Turning waste oil into a clean form of vehicle fuel

Imagine your kitchen staff just finished frying several servings of wings,  as is a common practice at many pizza brands. What’s your brand’s approach to what happens to all that used oil? If you haven’t considered your approach or even if you have, please think about recycling that resource operational byproduct and rest assured that this can be accomplished with a few nearly effortless, cost-free actions.

Used cooking oil — like that used in deep fryers and other areas of your restaurant — is an excellent source material for biodiesel, a cleaner-burning alternative to petroleum diesel fuel that offers striking environmental benefits. Made from either recycled oils and fats or from oil-bearing plants, biodiesel is a non-toxic, high-quality fuel with a carbon footprint that is up to 85% smaller than traditional diesel.

While vegetable and another pizza brand constant, olive oil, are among the most popular oils used in commercial kitchens, both can be recycled to create clean, highly efficient biodiesel that not only will fuel vehicles, but also do so with a greatly reduced environmental impact. Additionally, restaurant leaders should know that it isn’t necessary to separate oils by type in order to take part in this type of recycling.

Restaurants have a responsibility to maintain a clean and safe environment for customers and employees, while also ensuring that the kitchen grease trap is in prime condition and the facility’s disposal of cooking oil is in full compliance. Most cities enforce strict disposal codes designed to keep used cooking oil and other toxic materials out of the sewer and storm water systems.

When a pizza brand contracts with an oil recycling vendor, stores are provided containers, collection schedules and the used oil is hauled away without further hassle. The only in-house responsibility is for store team members to take responsibility for capturing the used oil in containers.

Not all used oil collectors recycle to biodiesel  

It’s important to note, however, that not all vendors who collect used oil recycle it into biodiesel. Some use the waste product to make a variety of disposable products such as pet food or cosmetics. So, it’s a good idea to research the vendors you work with to ensure they’re converting to biodiesel, either directly or through partnership with a third party, to give your brand the full sustainable practices benefit.

After all, biodiesel not only produces fewer emissions than petroleum diesel, it’s also less harmful to produce than other products made from used oil. For instance, after used cooking oil is collected, it must be tested to ensure it’s free of contaminants before the oil is dried and purified to remove food particles and other impurities that could prevent its refinement into usable biodiesel.

This purification process involves filtration to remove larger particles, as well as heating to separate useable and recyclable fat. Finally, once it’s purified, the used oil can be refined into biodiesel through a process known as transesterification. Some vendors also return what isn’t made into biodiesel back into their recycling and refining process to reduce waste further.

Your restaurant brand has strict regulations to follow regarding proper disposal of used cooking oil, so it’s worth considering working with a vendor to recycle this potentially valuable restaurant “waste” product. Such an alliance could ultimately save the brand from fines and improper disposal damages, while still giving your business that so-called “halo” of doing a very good thing for the Earth.
About the author: As COO of SeQuential Tyson Keever has helped develop a network of 85+ biodiesel retailers in Pacific Northwest, as well as a division that collects the spent cooking oil used to produce the company’s own fuel.