Santa Cruz Fuels Up With An Urban Crop–Waste Cooking Oil
A group of business and government organizations in Santa Cruz is using a $75,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to convert restaurant wastes into biodiesel fuel for area transit systems.
The grant went to Ecology Action of Santa Cruz, which has teamed up with city of Santa Cruz, the Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transportation District and the Santa Cruz Chapter of the California Restaurant Association. The project also includes a waste vegetable oil collector and Pacific Biodiesel, Inc. a biodiesel producer and supplier.
Restaurants generate large amounts of waste vegetable oil which can be readily converted into biodiesel fuel suitable for all diesel vehicles. The biodiesel fuel produced by the project will be distributed and sold to local public sector fleets such as Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transportation District.
The group also plans to use the EPA grant to demonstrate the economic viability of a community biodiesel collection, production and distribution chain using locally generated waste vegetable oil–something that is currently underutilized.
“We are excited to be simultaneously encouraging alternative fuel use, reduced air pollution, and increased diversion of wastes from landfills,” said Jeff Scott, director of the Waste Division in the EPA’s Pacific Southwest office. “We hope this community-based project will be a model ultimately replicated across the country.”
While many public diesel fleet operators want to switch to biodiesel, current high costs and low availability limits its market share. This pilot project focuses on places without ready access to an affordable agricultural crop as the primary feedstock for biodiesel.
Project participants will collect local waste oil and process it into biodiesel for distribution and sale to local public sector fleets. Biodiesel and biodiesel blends can be used without modifying existing diesel engines.
Waste minimization will be achieved by recycling the waste cooking oil. Air quality will be enhanced by burning biodiesel in place of petroleum diesel fuel, which will reduce particulate, and carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide emissions.
Water quality will be improved because the increased market value of waste cooking oil decreases the likelihood of its improper disposal into sewers, storm drains and waterways, reducing watershed and storm runoff pollution.
Restaurants and hotels in the United States produce over three billion gallons of waste cooking oil annually, the majority of which is disposed of in sewers and landfills. According to the EPA, waste oil dumped into sewers blocks drains and pipes and causes 40 percent of sewer spills.
Provided by the Environmental News Service.