Canadian Manufacturing

B.C. company greasing the wheels with biodiesel push

Social enterprise collecting used cooking oil to kickstart vehicles into alternative fuel market

DUNCAN, B.C.—Greasecycle Inc. has found a new deep-fry devotee in the University of British Columbia (UBC).

When the school’s kitchens are busy pumping out French fries and chicken wings to warm bellies this winter, the leftover cooking oil will begin a new journey towards helping move B.C.’s fossil fuel-based vehicles towards biodiesel.

At least that’s the vision of these newfangled green grease monkeys.

In less than five years, social enterprise Greasecycle has gone from selling jugs of biodiesel at a Sunday farmer’s market, to collecting thousands of litres of used cooking oil from B.C. schools, malls and restaurants.

“Most people didn’t want to make biodiesel, they just wanted to buy it,” says Hassaan Rahim, Greasecycle’s client services manager. “We wanted to focus on creating a local low-carbon economy, by powering it, and not being another fossil fuel burden on the economy.”

From 30 Burger King locations to hotels and pubs across the province, the Food Services department at UBC is the latest partnership in a venture that has grown by 20 per cent each year since Greasecycle started its free collection services in 2010.

Five Greasecycle trucks—which, of course, run on biodiesel—make scheduled pickups from its customer base. The trucks are equipped with suction pumps that vacuum out used cooking oil from massive storage barrels, some of which can handle more than 2,000 litres, depending on the facility.

Typically, the used cooking oil is most profitable on the animal feedstock market, but that’s not what this Duncan, B.C.-based company has in mind. It’s more concerned about turning the tide away from fossil fuels, and helping to open up the biodiesel market out West.

After Greasecycle collects the used cooking oil, it’s cleaned, recycled and sold on the market through the Cowichan Bio-diesel Co-op, whose motto is, “We eat locally, and so do our cars.”

For businesses, Rahim says Greasecycle is a no-brainer. Without cost, his team helps set up the oil containers, then removes them when full. They even go so far as to create annual certificates highlighting each business’ reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

“It’s a great opportunity for businesses to promote themselves as low-carbon,” says Rahim. “We want to reach out to as many customers as possible.”

For UBC, it’s not just about having the used oil collected, or even projecting an image of sustainability. The university has a team of students who work with biodiesel, and will have access to the product for research. The school even uses biodiesel to fuel some of its own plant operations fleet, a practice it will be able to expand under the new partnership. In fact, UBC is currently four years ahead of schedule for its biofuels target.

Besides biofuels, UBC’s Food Services department also goes to great lengths to ensure it has eco-friendly procurement practices. Students grow a number of vegetables on the school farm, and have particularly rigorous waste, recycling and composting programs.

Greasecycle, founded in part by company president Brian Roberts, has greasy partnerships with other schools too. Similar programs are running at Camosun College and Vancouver Island University, and Greasecycle is currently working on a deal with the University of Victoria.

Spreading the word about Greasecycle’s vision and services is working so far, says Rahim, but they want to get even bigger.

“We’re a very small 10-person team, and employee-owned, so right now it’s everybody’s job to be that salesperson and spread the message,” he says.

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