1.What is used cooking oil?
Homes and businesses in the US alone produce more than 3 billion gallons of used cooking oil annually. Used cooking oil refers to leftover oil after cooking food. It can come from various sources, including used fryer oil, grease, and waste oil. Used cooking oil is often considered a waste product, but it can be recycled and used for other purposes, such as biofuel production. Disposing of used cooking oil properly is essential to prevent environmental damage and clogging of sewage systems.
1.1 Yellow grease vs. UCO vs. UVO vs. WVO: What is the difference?
- Yellow grease: Yellow grease is a term used to describe used cooking oil with less than 15% free fatty acids (FFAs). Yellow grease is typically derived from frying fats, such as vegetable oil. People use it to produce biodiesel, soap, and other products and commodities.
- UCO: UCO (Used Cooking Oil) is a broader term that refers to any cooking oil that has people have used in the preparation of food. UCO can come from various sources, including deep fryers, frying pans, and grills. People also use this to produce biodiesel and other industrial applications.
- UVO: Instead of a broad term for all cooking oil, used vegetable oil (UVO) refers to one particular type of used cooking oil. This type of oil can come from any plant.
- WVO: Waste vegetable oil (WVO) is another general term for used vegetable oil. WVO is popular for making into a biofuel alternative.
2. How to recycle used cooking oil?
The ways to recycle used cooking oil can differ based on whether the fat comes from a household or a business, such as a business. Differences also exist between locations and recycling centers, but these general guidelines can give anyone an idea of the process.
2.1. How do households recycle UCO?
Households produce much smaller amounts of UCO than businesses, but there are still ways to recycle it. Individuals can save used cooking oil in a plastic container, such as a gallon milk jug, and take their UCO to a nearby recycling center. Some cities, counties, or states may have programs to help households find a UCO recycling center. An alternative is for residents to ask businesses that recycle their UCO to take their oil with them, but companies are under no requirement to take it. This option is helpful if the recycling center only takes bulk products or charges.
2.2 How do businesses recycle UCO?
One of the most common ways for businesses, such as restaurants, to recycle used cooking oil is with the installation of a grease trap for waste oil. Used cooking oil collects in large bins that professional recycling companies pick up for businesses.
3. What services do used cooking oil recycling companies provide?
A used cooking oil recycling company specializes in collecting, processing, and recycling waste cooking oil that restaurants, commercial kitchens, cafeterias, airports, stadiums, large facilities, and other food service establishments generate. Here is an overview of what a used cooking oil recycling company typically does:
- Collection: Recycling companies provide collection and pick up services to gather used cooking oil. They may have designated collection containers or bins placed at their clients’ premises for scheduled pick-up.
- Transportation: Once the used cooking oil is collected, the company transports it to a processing facility. They typically use specialized vehicles or containers that comply with local regulations for safe oil transportation.
- Processing: At the processing facility, the used cooking oil undergoes a series of steps to convert it into a suitable form for recycling. Processing may involve filtration to remove impurities, such as food particles and debris, and separation of any water content in the oil.
- Recycling: The primary objective of a used cooking oil recycling company is to recycle the oil into useful products. The specific recycling methods employed may vary depending on the company and the end products they aim to produce.
- Conversion to renewable fuels: Recycling centers convert used cooking oil into a renewable fuel (such as SAF-sustainable aviation fuel), biodiesel, and environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional petroleum-based diesel fuel. The oil undergoes a transesterification process to produce biodiesel, which people use in diesel engines without any modifications.
- Industrial applications: In certain cases, companies use the recycled cooking oil in industrial processes, such as manufacturing soaps, detergents, lubricants, or even as a raw material for the production of various bio-based products. In this way, companies upcycle the UCO into other household products.
- Compliance and Sustainability: Used cooking oil recycling companies adhere to local environmental regulations and safety standards throughout their operations. They ensure that the recycling process is carried out in an environmentally responsible manner, minimizing waste and avoiding harm to ecosystems.
- Partnership and Education: These companies often work in collaboration with restaurants, commercial kitchens, and other establishments to promote proper disposal and recycling of used cooking oil. They may provide educational resources and guidance on the importance of recycling and the appropriate methods for handling and storing used cooking oil.
- UCO Equipment: They may provide and maintain used cooking oil equipment such as portable cooking oil filtering machines, UCO tanks/containers, and UCO shuttles. Businesses can have the same company set up the equipment and arrange for regular collections.
- Grease Trap Cleaning: They may maintain and clean restaurants’ grease traps or grease interceptors. This reduces the risk of fire for businesses as they collect recyclable materials.
- Fresh Oil Delivery: Not only do used cooking oil recycling companies pick up old oil, but they can also deliver fresh oil. Especially for businesses, this can provide a large-scale solution to oil needs.
By recycling used cooking oil, these companies contribute to environmental sustainability by reducing waste, minimizing pollution risks associated with improper disposal, and creating valuable resources from previously discarded material.
3. What are the biggest used cooking oil recycling companies in the US?
- Mahoney Environmental: Established in 1953, Mahoney Environmental offers a range of services, such as used cooking oil collection, fresh oil delivery, grease trap installation and cleaning, and the design of custom UCO equipment. Mahoney Environmental has recycling center locations across the US.
- DAR PRO: DAR PRO is the leading waste recycler in the US. Operating since 1882, it has nationwide locations and offers UCO equipment, collection, grease trap installation, and meat waste disposal and compliance.
- SeQuential: Established in 2001, SeQuential offers services nationwide with drop-off locations in Washington, Oregon, and California. Services include collection and grease trap maintenance and cleaning.
- Restaurant Technologies: Restaurant Technologies was established in 1999 with nationwide access and more than 40 facilities across the US. Services include fresh oil delivery, waste oil collection, grease trap cleaning and maintenance, and equipment installation.
- Baker Commodities: Baker Commodities is a family-run waste-used cooking oil recycling company established in 1937. Headquartered in California, this company offers a nationwide network of services for cleaning and maintenance, collection, grease trap installation, and animal by-product disposal.
Is used cooking oil hazardous waste?
Used cooking oil is not a hazardous waste, but it can cause harm to both the environment and humans. The potential damage is why recycling used cooking oil is so important.
Why are thieves stealing used cooking oil?
Since there is demand for used cooking oil due to the renewable energy market, some companies will pay for UCO. This demand makes it an attractive opportunity for thievery.
How should used cooking oil be stored?
Used cooking oil should be stored in a sealable container, preferably in a dark location not exposed to the sun. People who plan to store used cooking oil for a more extended period should keep it cool.
5. Final Thoughts
Recycling used cooking oil provides many benefits, such as producing renewable energy, preventing contamination, and creating a sustainable environment. Individuals and businesses can recycle their used cooking oil. Luckily, used cooking oil recyclers have systems and equipment that make it easy to put waste to good use.