Thanks to the burgeoning biofuel market, the value of used cooking oil has skyrocketed, leading to an increasing number of oil thefts reported by U.S. restaurants. At least 20 states have reported thefts of used grease, according to “Nation’s Restaurant News“:http://www.nrn.com/searchResultsFullText.aspx?searchWords=fry%20crooks in a story by Ron Ruggless.
Not so long ago, foodservice operators had to pay to have the stuff hauled away. Now restaurants are getting 10 cents a gallon for the “waste” oil. Not exactly what Americans are paying at the gas pump these days, but it adds up, to the point where thieves are stealing barrel drums of it in the dead of night.
Used fryer oil is now traded on the commodities market as “yellow grease.” As of June 27, it was trading at 37.25 cents a pound. That translates to more than $2.50 a gallon. According to the NRN article, a typical fast food operator can produce up to 200 gallons of used oil in a week.
With crude oil prices now topping $140 a barrel, vegetable oils have become a hot commodity. As reported in the NRN article, several waste-services companies now offer used-oil storage systems and pick-up services. These companies allow restaurants to pump oil from fryers directly to insulated tanks rather than have employees manually carry the oil outside to a bulk storage container that can be placed inside the unit or outside in a secure area.
San Francisco has created its own grease recycling program, according to the NRN story. SF-Greasecycle, run by the city’s Public Utilities Commission, collects used vegetable oil from restaurants at no charge and recycles it into biodiesel for use in the city fleet.