Turning cooking oil into biodiesel fuel in NYC

January 17, 2012 5:31:31 AM PST
Thousands of restaurants throughout New York City are recycling their used cooking oil, keeping it out of landfills and providing a cleaner fuel source.

Local gas stations then sell diesel fuel from Tri-State Biodiesel, which can be used by any vehicle that uses diesel. It costs the same, but is much better for the environment.

And Tri-State Biodiesel is busy, making weekly pick ups of used cooking oil from more than 3,000 restaurants throughout the five boroughs.

Cafe Bonjour has been recycling its oil for two years. The service is free and better for the environment, especially considering how they previously disposed of cooking oil.

"We used to throw it in the sink before, or the garbage," owner Mario Hagag said. "But it's better for everyone if you recycle it."

The collected oil is brought to the company's warehouse in Hunts Points, where it is recycled and purified. Then, it is sent upstate for chemical processing, then to the gas station. The price is the same as regular petroleum-based diesel.

"As an in user, you wouldn't notice the difference between using biodiesel and using diesel fuel, except for that the biodiesel is much better for the environment," Tri-State CEO Brent Baker said. "It's easier on the local air quality, and it's a locally produced fuel."

In fact, biodiesel fuel reduces emissions by about 75 percent and is about 90 percent less toxic than petroleum diesel. The city has been so impressed by the company's work that starting next winter, all New York City buildings will be required to use 2 percent of biodiesel fuel in its heating oil, as a way to further reduce emissions.

Baker considers himself an environmentalist and an entrepreneur. When he started his company in 2004, it was a struggle. Now, he recycles more than 2 million gallons of cooking oil a year.

For more information, visit TriStateBiodiesel.com

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