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Crime Idle

Biofuel Thieves Steal Restaurant Grease 165

Posted by samzenpus
from the going-green-red-handed dept.
TMB writes "In a move that The Simpson's foretold, thieves have begun stealing inedible kitchen grease for use in biofuels. From the article: 'It's known as inedible kitchen grease, or IKG, which was once deemed waste and used in animal feed, though now is "an elixir in the booming green economy," according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture. "The grease’s value as a biofuel is being increasingly recognized," the agency said last month. "IKG is now coveted, which makes it a target for theft.."
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Biofuel Thieves Steal Restaurant Grease

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  • Simpsons did it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Maury Markowitz (452832) on Wednesday November 09, 2011 @07:00PM (#38006076) Homepage

    Wow, two jokes in one!

  • I have a 270G oil drum from when my house used to be oil heated. No longer used. Could I just dump my kitchen grease in there until it gets full? I guess it would take a few decades to get to 270G. How much does this stuff run? :)
    • by gbjbaanb (229885) on Wednesday November 09, 2011 @07:24PM (#38006358)

      most grease needs to be filtered before it can be used (or it'll clog your pipes, and then you won't be happy). IIRC there are instructions on what you need to do to turn used vegetable oil into biofuel for your car [journeytoforever.org].

      You could definitely dump your grease in there until it gets full, what you'd do with it after that is another question to ask though :)

      • by ClintJCL (264898)
        My pipes would never be at risk. AT least, not any pipes that are used. If any pipes are still connected to my house [they shouldn't be, anymore], I'd actually want them to be clogged. I assume that restaurants and thieves are dealing with unfiltered, so I don't really need to do that, the burden of that should be on whoever picks it up to use it as biofuel. So the only other question really is: Would somebody buy 270G of years old grease that had been sitting in a oil drum for years? haha. I'd love to leve
        • by gbjbaanb (229885)

          maybe, but they'd obviously just steal it...

          • by ClintJCL (264898)
            Nah. The thieves in this article aren't in my [somewhat dangerous and not well lit] suburban yard, they are around restaurants. Bonus points for humor tho :)
        • by ZorinLynx (31751)

          Seeing that cooking grease is made of hydrocarbons, and life on earth uses hydrocarbons extensively in its makeup, there's a good chance that grease left sitting in a drum for decades would become something's dinner before you build up enough of it to sell it for even a few dollars.

  • by potscott (539666) on Wednesday November 09, 2011 @07:05PM (#38006140)
    It's incredibly easy to convert an old VW diesel to run on kitchen grease. The trickiest part is keeping the viscosity down so you can pump it to the engine, but there's plenty of kits out there with in tank heaters for colder regions.
    • by ackthpt (218170) on Wednesday November 09, 2011 @07:34PM (#38006450) Homepage Journal

      It's incredibly easy to convert an old VW diesel to run on kitchen grease. The trickiest part is keeping the viscosity down so you can pump it to the engine, but there's plenty of kits out there with in tank heaters for colder regions.

      Mechanic on my two previous cars was running a Mercedes diesel on bio fuel. He had some setup outside his house, which processed cooking oil into fuel. Initially he had no trouble finding local restaurants who were happy to give away their used oil (rather than pay for disposal.) Not so available anymore, people are willing to pay for it now.

      In other news [chicagotribune.com], there's a flight recently by a jet powered by biofuel - mostly for promotional reasons as the jet requirement came in at about g/$17 as opposed to g/$3 for petrol jet fuel.

  • by ackthpt (218170) on Wednesday November 09, 2011 @07:06PM (#38006156) Homepage Journal

    Disturbing story on the BBC [bbc.co.uk], a while back, regarding recovered grease from disposal, grease traps, drains, etc. being recycled into packaged cooking oil in China. Yum.

    Where's there's opportunity, all that's needed is people with the required ethics.

    • by Yvan256 (722131)

      Just one more reason to never eat anything labeled "Made in China" or "Made in PRC".

      • So basically never buy about 95% of stuff :p

        • by MightyYar (622222) on Wednesday November 09, 2011 @08:48PM (#38007258)

          Most of our manufactured crap comes from there, but (aside from apple juice) our food supply is not completely overrun yet. Trader Joe's completely avoids Chinese suppliers.

          • aside from apple juice

            I have no troubles finding a "Made in USA" apple juice in my local Safeway so far - e.g. this [amazon.com]. Am I missing something?

            • by fluffy99 (870997)

              aside from apple juice

              I have no troubles finding a "Made in USA" apple juice in my local Safeway so far - e.g. this [amazon.com]. Am I missing something?

              The little label that says 'Concentrate from China' perhaps? At least that's what the one in my fridge says on the neck.

              • The little label that says 'Concentrate from China' perhaps?

                That thing actually has "not from concentrate" on the label, and "US/Canada" on the neck where countries of manufacture are meant to be listed.

                Anyway, I googled on the subject, and, apparently, the problem is mainly with apple concentrate - 90% of that in U.S. comes from China.

          • by thsths (31372)

            > Trader Joe's completely avoids Chinese suppliers.

            That may be true, but Trader Joe's also has close links with Aldi - a discount supermarket chain in Europe. While they are generally quite reasonable for a discounter, they certainly have their fair share of questionable practices and creative labelling.

            • by MightyYar (622222)

              They don't have "close links with Aldi" on a corporate level, but the guys that run the two chains are brothers IIRC.

        • by ShakaUVM (157947)

          >>So basically never buy about 95% of stuff :p

          Assuming you're not eating your toys, we here in America still actually grow a fair chunk of what we eat.

        • 95% of your food comes from China?

  • Could be worse (Score:5, Informative)

    by identity0 (77976) on Wednesday November 09, 2011 @07:09PM (#38006184) Journal

    Well, at least it's not likely to get mixed with sewage to make lard for human consumption like in China [nytimes.com].

    One hopes so, at least.

  • ...Then how come the removal is classified as theft? The restaurant shows no loss (in fact it's a net gain for them as they would otherwise have to pay for disposal, per EA regulations), and the "thieves" are merely showing initiative per yet more EA regulations on RECYCLING.

    Here's my theory: certain people are pissed because they're not getting their cut (the Government for fuel tax revenue, the oil companies for diesel sales (boo bloody hoo, they're getting pissy because out of their TRILLION DOLLAR INDUS

    • by Nidi62 (1525137) on Wednesday November 09, 2011 @07:17PM (#38006284)
      Have the restaurants thrown the grease away, or just put it in storage tanks? Maybe the restaurant contracts with legitimate biodiesel producers and they sell or get free removal of the grease by the production company, who then uses it to make biofuel? What you are saying is like saying "going into foreclosed houses and taking the copper wiring/piping out and selling it isn't stealing, because no one is using the house and banks are evil!" It is both morally and legally wrong.
    • by Bieeanda (961632)
      Probably because trespassing and breaking and entering are involved, and because the restaurants are still on the hook if some chucklefuck spills fifty gallons of the stuff on the road during their getaway.
    • by pclminion (145572)
      How do you know the restaurant wasn't going to sell the grease to a legitimate biofuel maker? Just because it's sitting outside in a tank doesn't make it "fair game." A friend of mine collects fryer grease, purifies it, and sells it to larger biofuels companies. He PAYS for the grease when he picks it up from the restaurants. Taking it without paying is fucking theft.
      • by gbjbaanb (229885)

        madness. He should *charge* the restaurant a small amount to take it away for recycling.

        • by pclminion (145572)

          madness. He should *charge* the restaurant a small amount to take it away for recycling.

          That doesn't work when there's someone in the area who is willing to pay for it. This isn't hypothetical, people do pay for it.

          • by slim (1652)

            It could work.

            There's a sweet spot somewhere, where the costs work out such that the market value of the good is so low that you still would pay someone to take it away.

            Let's say it costs me $10 to collect a tonne of grease, $10 to process it into biofuel, which I can sell for £20. I've not made a profit. If I also charge $10 for collecting the grease, I've made $10 profit.

            My competitor in the grease disposal business, who doesn't sell biofuel, has to charge $20 collection, to make the same profit. (a

            • by gbjbaanb (229885)

              or - find out what the local council charges for industrial waste collection, then offer to subcontract directly to them for slightly less, and include the recycling feature "for free".

    • by p0p0 (1841106)
      This thing is mine. It is not yours. You have taken it from me. Theft! It's not that bloody difficult. We're not talking about online piracy. This concept has been pretty cut and dry for thousands of years.
    • Even garbage is private property.
      • by wmbetts (1306001)

        In most places it's not. I can legally go riffle through your garbage once you put it out for collection. Private business on the other hand you might not be able too. I'm not sure exactly what makes it legal for someone to riffle through my garbage, but not theirs (if that is the case).

        • by bws111 (1216812)

          Wrong. I think you are confusing two things. Once you put your garbage out for collection it is no longer considered private, so someone can indeed look through it. However, it is still either yours or the collection companies property, and taking it without permission is theft.

          • by wmbetts (1306001)

            No, I'm not wrong. In several places (most) it's considered abandoned property once it's set outside for the trash collectors to pick it up.

            • by DamonHD (794830)

              AFAIK, in the UK for example it is *not* abandoned legally if you've specifically put it out to be collected (and especially IMHO if it's still on my land). It might be abandoned in law if you fly-tipped it.

              And if not abandoned, taking it without permission is theft.

              IANAL

              Rgds

              Damon

        • by Pope (17780)

          We'll let the Star Chamber figure that one out.

    • Heh, next thing you know the cops are going to crack down on bums for dumpster diving.

      And to all those who have responded to your post with "what if the restaurants sell this stuff?" - they're wrong. The restaurants, like you said, pay to have it removed.

    • by mspohr (589790)
      I think it's the "cooking oil recyclers" who are complaining. Most restaurants have to pay someone to take away the grease. They grease haulers then resell the grease and they get upset when somebody steals "their" grease.

      I don't know how the law would apply here (IANAL) but if you put out trash for collection, you give up rights to it. Could be the same for grease put out for collection or it might be different.

      • The grease isn't put out, it's in a container owned by the rendering company leased to the restaurant on the restaurant's premises.

    • Once the grease is put in the render's container, it's their property and they will defend it; the restaurant that generated the waste grease probably doesn't care. It's the grease rendering company that being stolen from, not the restaurant.

  • This is old news (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 09, 2011 @07:23PM (#38006334)

    Back when I was making my own fuel out of WVO (thats Waste Vegetable Oil, IKG is a new term to me), stores would GIVE US their grease for free. They were paying Rendering farms to haul it off for them. To be turned into dog food usually.

    Then biofuel got big, and the renderers started to actually pay a small amount for the oil that they use to get paid to take.

    Then, in CA, they got a law passed that said if you haul used veggie oil, you have to have a business license and insurance. It was a scare tactic to get the small time home brewer out of the loop, so that the renderers wouldnt have to compete with home brewers. They even got it classified as a hazardous product!

    By the way, the process of turning grease into biofuel is the same as turning it into soap (aka Fight Club), its just a different ratio of the same chemicals. Some Methanol, and some Caustic lye or caustic soda, depending on what your source oil is. Shake and serve!

    • By the way, the process of turning grease into biofuel is the same as turning it into soap (aka Fight Club), its just a different ratio of the same chemicals. Some Methanol, and some Caustic lye or caustic soda, depending on what your source oil is. Shake and serve!

      More precisely, each is a byproduct of the process for making the other, so you get some of both no matter what.

      • Not always, the The two-stage biodiesel process [journeytoforever.org] completely avoids soap.

    • by Reziac (43301) *

      One of the side effects is that biodiesel seems to be getting into the livestock feed fats pipeline (shared processing facilities, I'd guess; dog food that uses animal fat now smells like diesel fuel) and the result is toxic to canine fetuses and neonates.

    • by MarkGriz (520778)

      "Then, in CA, ......... They even got it classified as a hazardous product!"

      In California?! Say it isn't so.

    • by gurps_npc (621217)
      Soap is pretty finiky when it comes to temperature as well as the ratio.
  • I know a guy who has a VW TDI converted into a grease engine. He's banned from every Wal-Mart in America because he worked out some arrangement with the McDonald's manager (inside the Wal-Mart) to get enough old vegetable oil to keep his car on the road. Some security guard at Wal-Mart saw him taking the oil out of the waste container in the back and disapproved. I think the McDonald's manager got in trouble for it as well.

    Now I think he gets his fuel from Rallys or Wendy's or some place like that. But he d

    • by mmcuh (1088773)

      it makes your car perpetually smell like fast food

      How is that worse than smelling like diesel?

      • by Sulphur (1548251)

        it makes your car perpetually smell like fast food

        How is that worse than smelling like diesel?

        Diesel fries . . . yum.

        They would be caught by insanely cackling "We're green."

      • When you go on a car club cruise, the people behind you complain that you made them hungry.

    • [Running WVO in your VW TDI] can be high maintenance

      Yeah, it can gum up your injection system and (potentially) destroy your engine.

      Biodiesel, on the other hand, is a lot safer, and the only "conversion" you need to do is replace your rubber fuel-return hoses with Viton (which costs about $10 and takes 5 minutes).

      (I drive a TDI too, and run commercially-made biodiesel in it.)

      • FWIW, Volkswagen claims in the user manual for my diesel car (Jetta SportWagen TDI) that only fuel blends of up to 5% biodiesel are safe to run. Is that BS, or is there something about it?

        • 2006 and older TDIs (Pumpe Düße and rotary-pump injection) are fine on any blend up to 100% biodiesel. The new 2009+ "clean diesel" common-rail injection TDIs "officially" have a problem running more than 5% because of the fancy exhaust system.

          The new cars contain a device called a "Diesel Particulate Filter," where the soot from combustion accumulates and is periodically burned off by a "DPF regeneration event" in which the fuel injection timing is modified to increase exhaust temperature. Becaus

  • by jago25_98 (566531) <jago25_98&hotmail,com> on Wednesday November 09, 2011 @08:07PM (#38006792) Homepage Journal

    People have varying views of rubbish disposal.

    In Argentina before they had the crash that the west is about to have rubbish was viewed this way.
    But after the 2002 financial crash so many people were destitute that an army of people was born and found searching the dustbins primarily for cardboard.

    Now the crash is past this group of people seemingly come out of nowhere at night and clean up the streets. Now people just through rubbish out wherever and there is hardly any governement provided collection. Compare this with western Europe where everything is a cost and a problem to dispose of, so much that people dump it anywhere.

    I always suggest working with the market rather than fighting against it. If there is a problem then attempt to steer the market flow rather than trying to make water go uphill.

    In this example people who wish to securely transfer ownership to a disposal company should state thier intentions and those collecting otherwise protected by default.

    This is the kind of lesson that this economic disaster will tell whether we like it or not.

    • On a related note: National Geographic did a show about Rio residents (I think it was Rio, ICBW) who live and work on the municipal dump which is easily the size of the city itself and right next door. They survive by recycling practically everything from rags to plastics to food (growing their own on composting heaps), many do well enough to provide for their families.

    • My question would be what happens to the rubish AFTER these people have removed it from the streets have removed anything they can recycle? Does it end up in the air as fumes from a crude incinerator or precious metal extraction furnace? does it end up buried in crude landfill with no protection against leaching? does it end up just dumped in the countryside somwhere?

  • New trend... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jakartus (1287248) on Wednesday November 09, 2011 @08:52PM (#38007316)
  • I work in a restaurant. I owned one for a while, too. I can tell you, there are those that want the stuff. The company I had taking mine away, at first, charged me to do so. Another company approached and said they'd charge less, they got into a bidding war with each other. Ended up having it done for free. At the time, I believe it was going into C4 production. Now, at the restaurant I work at, the gentlemen who delivers our mushrooms takes it, and actually PAYS us for it (in the form of an extra bo
  • I guess that when people are stealing the stuff, that makes it officially valuable. To borrow an old meme: will 2011 be the year of biofuels in the fuel tank?

  • Biofuel Thieves? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mpaladini (2504322) on Wednesday November 09, 2011 @10:07PM (#38007948)
    I was making Biodiesel back in 1996 when Josh Tickell was driving his Veggie Van across the country making big news. Frankly that was the death knell for us as individuals who made their own BioDiesel. I went for years without ever buying a bit of fuel for my car. All the restaraunt folks called me MacGyver and marvelled at my Diesel Mercedes that smelled like french fries. Once BioDiesel caught on as a commercial idea, the recyclers that used to charge the restaraunts for taking the grease started paying for it and locking the restaraunts into "Contracts", and putting locks on the grease containers. It is now a crime to take any grease from a "Griffin Industries" grease tank (the major recycler here in Tennessee), and because of the contracts, the restaraunt can't even give it to you before they put it in the tanks. The contracts are worded such that once the grease comes out of the fryer, it is the property of the recycler. Once something becomes commercially viable, the individual is screwed. I ended up selling my fuel proccessor and getting out of it because I couldn't get any waste oil/grease. The recyclers pay way more for it in order to discourage us from buying it directly from the restaraunts, at least they did back when I was doing it. It may be different now that have run us all out of making our own fuel. In addition, the price of the chemicals went through the roof as well so now your cheaper off to buy dino-diesel, at least if you were doing it for cost reasons. Back in the 90's I was making a 50 gallon batch of BioDiesel for about 50 cents a gallon. Whats happening now I suppose is that some of my brethren are taking it from the grease tanks at restaraunts. Of course now the recyclers can burn you at the stake for that since they can nail you for larceny, transporting biowaste, etc. And they will nail every one they catch to the wall just to make an example of them because they know that there is a lot of us out there. I saw the writing on the wall and refocused my energies towards electric vehicles, solar, geothermal etc. At thats not against the law... Yet....
    • re: your last point.

      No, solar isn't illegal yet, but what it is, is prohibitively expensive. At current prices for panels against wholesale per-kWH line energy prices, a grid-feeding solar setup (3-5kW) runs around the £8k-£14k [solarguide.co.uk] mark depending on the size of the installation, and you can only get it if you own your home - renters need not apply. At that rate it would take anything up to 25 years to pay for itself providing it performs as expected, in an ideal world. In practical terms this equate

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      The next step is waste motor oil. Newer diesels can't run on it worth a damn like they can on biodiesel, but old IDIs like my F250 and my 300SD have no trouble. You thin it with gasoline, which sounds scary but which works fine. It does have to be filtered, preferably down to 1 micron.

  • ...to drive-by liposuction.

  • I wonder if liposuction clinics are next to get hit. At least in the US, the emissions would still probably smell like french fries.

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