Alachua County is recycling waste vegetable oil from local fairs and festivals to reduce oil waste and fuel its diesel-powered trucks.
The county recently received 200 gallons of waste vegetable oil from the Alachua County Fair and 150 gallons were usable, said Kurt Seaburg, manager of the Alachua County Hazardous Waste Collection Center.
The county is converting the oil into biodiesel fuel to power some of the county’s diesel-powered trucks.
John Mousa, Alachua County pollution prevention manager, said the county is able to offset the petroleum diesel, lower greenhouse omissions and save the county money — up to $2 per gallon of fuel..
“It shows you can use a waste product that people would normally have to get rid of and convert it into a useful fuel that can basically be substituted for petroleum fuel,” he said.
While regular diesel fuel costs $3.50 to $4 per gallon, Mousa said the county produces biodiesel fuel from vegetable oil for about $2 a gallon.
By recycling the waste vegetable oil, the county is able to able to keep it from pouring down the drain, Mousa said.
“If it gets into the drains, it can basically clog up the drains,” he said. “It can get into the sewage systems and cause sewage pipes to burst.”
So far, the county has produced more than 3,000 gallons of biodiesel fuel from waste vegetable oil since it started collecting the oil in 2010.
Although the program has been running smoothly, Mousa said it can be difficult to get enough good quality fuel. The waste vegetable oil can sometimes have other contaminants inside, which cannot be converted.
Mousa said the county’s goal is to get 1,000 to 2,000 gallons a year or more.
Alachua County is looking into collecting more vegetable oil from the Hoggetowne Medieval Faire this January and other community events.
Marco Chavez, chef and owner of Manuel’s Vintage Room, at 6 S. Main St. in Gainesville, said he doesn’t do a lot of frying, so the county picks up the waste vegetable oil about every other month and collects about 30 gallons of waste from his establishment.
Chavez has been participating in the program for more than a year now.
Chavez said that it’s important for the county to participate in the oil collection program to reduce waste.
“It’s a lot easier to throw things away than to make sure that you don’t and to recycle,” he said.
Linda Piper, festival coordinator for the 32nd Annual Downtown Festival and Art Show Nov. 16, said it’s the festival’s third year participating in the oil collection program.
Piper requested three 55-gallon drums for the downtown festival that will be placed strategically by the food vendors using the most oil.
She said the oil collecting service takes the burden off of her vendors to decide what to do with the oil after the festival.
“I think it’s a wonderful program that every city should provide,” she said.