Biodiesel plays active role in food waste reduction

By The National Biodiesel Board | May 01, 2019

It’s no secret: Americans love fried food. But, what happens to the oil after preparing those foods is part of an ever-growing conversation on reducing food waste. Restaurants and consumers alike are working to reduce the amount of food that ends up in landfills, something at which biodiesel has been winning for decades.

The USDA, FDA and EPA recently announced April as “Winning on Reducing Food Waste Month” and the National Biodiesel Board sees biodiesel as an active player in reduction.   

“Recycling cooking oil for biodiesel production is a great step for any restaurant looking to reduce their food waste,” said Don Scott, director of sustainability for the National Biodiesel Board. “The oil is collected and refined into renewable energy instead of being sent to landfills or being poured down the drain.”  

NBB estimates that nearly 2 billion pounds of used cooking oil is diverted from landfills each year. Thanks to robust recycling programs throughout the country, the volume from these programs continues to grow, making recycled cooking oil the second largest oil source for biodiesel.

“When biodiesel first came on the scene, it was common practice for restaurants to pay to have their grease hauled away,” Scott said. “Today, it’s pretty standard for companies to have the used oil removed at no cost to them due to its value in renewable energy.”

In addition to used cooking oil, biodiesel uses byproducts of meat production—animal fats—as a raw material source. In fact, nearly 1.3 billion pounds of animal fats go into biodiesel fuel today.

The rendering process captures that raw material. Without rendering, neither recycled cooking oil nor animal fats would be available for biodiesel production.

“If you think about it, renderers are the original recyclers of food waste,” said Nancy Foster, president of the National Renderers Association. “Americans only eat about 50 percent of an animal, and we’ve been reclaiming those unused proteins, fats and oils for a broad spectrum of uses for a very long time. The rendering industry has an important sustainability story to tell and we are happy to see this focus on reducing food waste continuing to gain traction.”

Scott added, “Biodiesel’s ability to use these fats and oils and turn them into renewable fuel is what makes biodiesel such an active player in reducing food waste. We’ve been reducing food waste for more than two decades and we’ve only just started.”

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