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HomeNewsArchivesCreative Solutions Helping Solve Waste Cooking Oil Problem

Creative Solutions Helping Solve Waste Cooking Oil Problem

Maho Bay Camps on St. John is working on a solution to the problem plaguing many of the territory’s restaurants: what to do with used cooking oil and grease. On Tuesday, the campground staff fired up the kiln at its pottery studio using waste cooking oil from Maho Bay’s restaurant to see how it works.

“It’s huge for waste reduction,” Maho Bay manager Scott Drennan said.

Gail Van de Bogurt, who heads the campground’s pottery program, said it costs $250 a month for propane to run the kiln, so this will be a big savings.

Dan Kreofsky, who assists with the campground’s recycled arts program, hopes that the pottery kiln project will be successful so they can try it out on the recycled glass blowing program. He said if they can use it for the glass program, it will save $15,000 on propane for that program.

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Using plumbing parts, Kreofsky built a contraption to adapt the pottery kiln for use with cooking oil.

“We just have to screen the french fries out,” he said.

St. John resident Jeff Bumbarger has also come up with a unique solution. He collects used cooking oil from several Coral Bay area restaurants. He first strains out the bigger pieces, such as crispy bits from french fries, and puts the bits in the Dumpster. He stores the oil in a 55-gallon drum and lets it settle. He said he’s been doing this for about three years and has yet to accumulate a large amount of debris in the bottom of the drum. He then puts the oil right into his truck’s gas tank.

“I don’t need to treat it,” he said.

It does leave behind a bit of aroma as he drives down the road.

“It smells like french fries,” M.J. Foody, chef at Aqua Bistro restaurant, said.

Aqua Bistro is one of the restaurants that gives Bumbarger its waste cooking oil.

V.I. Asphalt Products Corp. on St. Croix is using waste cooking oil as fuel in its asphalt manufacturing, operations manager Susan Benson said.

“It’s more of a diesel equivalent. It’s something that anyone can do,” she said.

According to Benson, the company’s welder uses waste cooking oil to run his pick up truck and boat.

The V.I. Waste Management Authority about three months ago started clamping down on the practice of dumping used cooking oil and grease into the sewage treatment system through manholes or at the sewage treatment plants.

“It caused us not to be in compliance,” Waste Management spokesman Stella Saunders said, referring to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Waste Management is working on a solution, trying to organize a project similar to V.I. Asphalt’s with asphalt manufacturers in the St. Thomas/St. John District.

Saunders said that Waste Management is in the process of setting up a spot at the Bovoni landfill on St. Thomas for waste haulers from St. Thomas and St. John to deposit used cooking oil. She said that recent rains have delayed the process, but once the site is open, Waste Management will launch an education campaign.

“But if push comes to shove, we’ll ship it off island,” she said.

Saunders cautioned that the Bovoni site will only collect used cooking oil, not grease from grease traps because the traps contain food and other particles.

Saunders said the cooking oil and grease problem was an opportunity for an entrepreneur to come up with a way to use it. Because some used cooking oil and grease are dumped illegally, Saunders said it wasn’t possible to know how much of the products the territory’s restaurants generate.

Additionally, she said that currently aren’t many ways waste cooking oil can be used in the territory; and if it’s collected, she said it’s cost prohibitive to ship to either Puerto Rico or the mainland. There are products that can include waste cooking oil, but the companies that manufacture them do not have factories in the Virgin Islands.

Before Waste Management called a halt, the same companies that pump out septic tanks were collecting the used oil and grease. Saunders said they sometimes mixed it with the sludge from the septic tanks before dumping it at the sewage treatment plants.

In other cases, restaurant owners and some home cooks dumped it down the sink. Saunders said that the hot oil or grease cooled in the sewage system, causing a rock-hard blockage that caused the sewage system to overflow through manholes into the streets.

Residents who put small amounts into containers to put in with their trash also cause problems because it gets all over the inside of garbage trucks when the garbage is crushed, Saunders said.

Only one waste hauler of several called across the territory returned a phone call requesting information. The manager did not want his name used but called the use of waste cooking oil as fuel a “no brainer.”

“That is the simplest fix,” he said.

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Maho Bay Camps on St. John is working on a solution to the problem plaguing many of the territory’s restaurants: what to do with used cooking oil and grease. On Tuesday, the campground staff fired up the kiln at its pottery studio using waste cooking oil from Maho Bay’s restaurant to see how it works.

“It’s huge for waste reduction,” Maho Bay manager Scott Drennan said.

Gail Van de Bogurt, who heads the campground’s pottery program, said it costs $250 a month for propane to run the kiln, so this will be a big savings.

Dan Kreofsky, who assists with the campground’s recycled arts program, hopes that the pottery kiln project will be successful so they can try it out on the recycled glass blowing program. He said if they can use it for the glass program, it will save $15,000 on propane for that program.

Using plumbing parts, Kreofsky built a contraption to adapt the pottery kiln for use with cooking oil.

“We just have to screen the french fries out,” he said.

St. John resident Jeff Bumbarger has also come up with a unique solution. He collects used cooking oil from several Coral Bay area restaurants. He first strains out the bigger pieces, such as crispy bits from french fries, and puts the bits in the Dumpster. He stores the oil in a 55-gallon drum and lets it settle. He said he’s been doing this for about three years and has yet to accumulate a large amount of debris in the bottom of the drum. He then puts the oil right into his truck’s gas tank.

“I don’t need to treat it,” he said.

It does leave behind a bit of aroma as he drives down the road.

“It smells like french fries,” M.J. Foody, chef at Aqua Bistro restaurant, said.

Aqua Bistro is one of the restaurants that gives Bumbarger its waste cooking oil.

V.I. Asphalt Products Corp. on St. Croix is using waste cooking oil as fuel in its asphalt manufacturing, operations manager Susan Benson said.

“It’s more of a diesel equivalent. It’s something that anyone can do,” she said.

According to Benson, the company’s welder uses waste cooking oil to run his pick up truck and boat.

The V.I. Waste Management Authority about three months ago started clamping down on the practice of dumping used cooking oil and grease into the sewage treatment system through manholes or at the sewage treatment plants.

“It caused us not to be in compliance,” Waste Management spokesman Stella Saunders said, referring to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Waste Management is working on a solution, trying to organize a project similar to V.I. Asphalt’s with asphalt manufacturers in the St. Thomas/St. John District.

Saunders said that Waste Management is in the process of setting up a spot at the Bovoni landfill on St. Thomas for waste haulers from St. Thomas and St. John to deposit used cooking oil. She said that recent rains have delayed the process, but once the site is open, Waste Management will launch an education campaign.

“But if push comes to shove, we’ll ship it off island,” she said.

Saunders cautioned that the Bovoni site will only collect used cooking oil, not grease from grease traps because the traps contain food and other particles.

Saunders said the cooking oil and grease problem was an opportunity for an entrepreneur to come up with a way to use it. Because some used cooking oil and grease are dumped illegally, Saunders said it wasn’t possible to know how much of the products the territory’s restaurants generate.

Additionally, she said that currently aren’t many ways waste cooking oil can be used in the territory; and if it’s collected, she said it’s cost prohibitive to ship to either Puerto Rico or the mainland. There are products that can include waste cooking oil, but the companies that manufacture them do not have factories in the Virgin Islands.

Before Waste Management called a halt, the same companies that pump out septic tanks were collecting the used oil and grease. Saunders said they sometimes mixed it with the sludge from the septic tanks before dumping it at the sewage treatment plants.

In other cases, restaurant owners and some home cooks dumped it down the sink. Saunders said that the hot oil or grease cooled in the sewage system, causing a rock-hard blockage that caused the sewage system to overflow through manholes into the streets.

Residents who put small amounts into containers to put in with their trash also cause problems because it gets all over the inside of garbage trucks when the garbage is crushed, Saunders said.

Only one waste hauler of several called across the territory returned a phone call requesting information. The manager did not want his name used but called the use of waste cooking oil as fuel a “no brainer.”

“That is the simplest fix,” he said.