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San Francisco Gets the Grease

Posted By G Living Staff Monkies On May 23, 2009 @ 12:01 am In Green Report / Media | 2 Comments

San Francisco launched project Greasecycle just before Thanksgiving, a free citywide effort to collect and recycle fryer grease from the city’s restaurants. The city will collect the grease, turn it into biodiesel and power the city’s vehicles with it – including buses and firetrucks. The benefits for the city are twofold: they get an almost-free fuel source that burns cleaner than traditional fuels and they solve the illegal grease-dumping problem. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, illegal grease dumping costs the city about $3.5 million annually by causing “heart attacks” in the sewer system – congealed grease clogging up the works. The city also plans to start picking up household cooking grease in the near future, reminiscent of WWII era bacon grease collection (but back then it was used to make bombs).

Earlier this year, San Francisco initiated a B20 plan – to convert all city vehicles to 20% biodiesel by the end of 2007. The problem is that the city is currently using “virgin” biodiesel made from Midwestern soybeans and shipped by train. So the net energy and pollution savings is nil. Fortunately, SF recognized the free source of biodiesel in the city’s 4000 restaurants (and even greater potential if home grease can be captured).

Project Greasecycle has also created a minor controversy. Offering free grease pick up has forced other greasers to drop their pickup fees (at least two other companies already collect grease), and there may soon be competition for those restaurants not currently served by anyone. The more important issue is that the city doesn’t currently have the facilities to turn grease into biodiesel – even though it should work without conversion – so they have to figure out what to do with the stuff. Hopefully they won’t decide to ship the stuff somewhere for conversion and then ship it back.

This may be only one small step in the war on dinosaur oil, but it is significant nonetheless. San Francisco has taken a major step towards closing one recycling loop. The trick is to make it efficient and easy for everyone to get the grease from the pan to the biodiesel plant.

For more info on recycling grease, click here.

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