Saturday, November 21, 2009

Your turkey grease can clean our air and save taxpayer money

Desert Biofuels Initiative applauds the grease recycling efforts in the Valley (by the Town of Gilbert and AZ Biodiesel, and by the Dynamite Biofuels Co-op) and in Tucson.

At DBI we're not fans of the "Big Agriculture" model of growing corn or soy for conversion to ethanol or biodiesel. This model can can provide some air quality benefits, but otherwise has some serious flaws (e.g. excessive fertilizer runoff, displacing food crops). We're excited about the future potential of next-generation biofuels feedstocks (inputs), such as algae. However, there is another feedstock option that is widely available right now but that is currently being significantly underused as a biofuel input: so-called "yellow grease" or "WVO" -- waste vegetable oil and other similar waste grease, such as from restaurant deep fryers. WVO can be converted into clean-burning biodiesel (that can run in any diesel engine) easily and cheaply.

Did you know that:
  • There are about 10 million gallons of WVO produced annually in the Phoenix metropolitan area, but most of this currently is used as animal feed or simply "disappears" -- often down the drain.
  • If all of the WVO in the region were turned into biofuel that was used locally in place of petroleum diesel, this would take 100,000 tons of CO2 out of Valley air each year -- roughly the equivalent of taking 20,000 cars off the road.
  • We would also reduce the significant taxpayer expense associated with municipalities addressing the hundreds of grease-caused sewer blockages and overflows that occur in the Valley every year.
This Thanksgiving, we all have the opportunity to make a small contribution towards cleaner air and a cleaner wastewater infrastructure: we can recycle our turkey grease and other used cooking oils as biofuel. There are two WVO collection efforts here in the Valley: one in Gilbert, the other in Cave Creek. There is also a notable collection effort in Tucson.

Town of Gilbert and AZ Biodiesel

The Town of Gilbert continues to impress with their ability to demonstrate results when it comes to clean energy. For Thanksgiving they have partnered with Gilbert-based AZ Biodiesel and are collecting household grease at eight of the nine Gilbert fire stations. AZ Biodiesel will convert the grease to fuel, all of which will be used locally -- displacing petroleum diesel and reducing air pollution. Click here for details and a map to the various collection points. We applaud Gilbert's leadership in this area, and deeply appreciate AZ Biodiesel's commitment to the project and to sustainable biofuels in Arizona more generally.

Dynamite Biofuels Co-op.

The Dynamite Biofuels Co-op, a membership-driven grassroots biofuels effort based in Cave Creek, is also providing a grease recycling opportunity. The Co-op will have a grease collection bin at Big Earl's Greasy Eats restaurant, 6135 E. Cave Creek Rd. in Cave Creek. The team at the Co-op are longtime leaders in the Valley on biofuels issues, and we applaud their efforts to make this recycling opportunity available to the community. Check their website for additional details.

[Note: we understand that the Co-op would be willing to provide collection bins and pick up services at other locations in the Valley as well. Restaurant owners or others, please let them know if you would like to participate.]


To their great credit, the Tucson Clean Cities Coalition, Pima County Regional Wastewater Reclamation Department, and Grecycle have put on a day-after-Thanksgiving grease drive for several years. This year the drive will run from 9am - 1pm at three locations in Tucson: O'Reilly Chevrolet (6160 E. Broadway), the Pima County Industrial Wastewater Control plant (5025 W. Ina Rd.) and the City of Tucson Water Plan #2 (1102 W. Irvington Rd.). The Clean Cities website will have more detail.

So: this Thanksgiving RECYCLE YOUR GREASE! And while you're doing so, consider the opportunity for cleaner air and wastewater treatment cost savings that we're missing by under- utilizing this local resource as a biofuel feedstock.

[To our friends in the press: we'd love for you to tell this story! Here are some contacts if you'd like more info:

Beth Lucas, Town of Gilbert, (480) 503-6766,
Dan Rees, AZ Biodiesel, contact info
Gene Leach or Jay Nance, Dynamite Biofuels, contact info
Kathryn Van Kirk, Tucson Clean Cities, (520) 792-1093,
Eric Johnson, Desert Biofuels Initiative, (602) 996-9682,]

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