NORWAY — While the old adage tells people the importance of eating your fruits and vegetables, there isn’t one yet that says it’s not good to dump used vegetable cooking oil into the waste stream.
Norway-Paris Solid Waste and its board wanted to remedy this problem. This is why they teamed up with the Portland-based Maine Standard Biofuels to recycle the oil in attempt to save the towns and taxpayers money.
More than a month ago, two black 55-gallon barrels arrived at the Brown Street Transfer Station to collect used vegetable oil from residents and restaurants alike, according to Manager Warren Sessions. They’re located beyond the trash compactor, next to the used motor oil tank, which the towns pay to get rid of.
Tony Giambro, of the Norway-Paris Solid Waste (NPSW) Board, said he first learned of vegetable oil dumping at a board meeting, when it was mentioned “one of the local restaurants coming in on a regular basis dumping vegetable oil in the normal trash in the compactor.”
“Up until now that was the normal thing we had,” he said. “We had been paying to get rid of all that extra weight when we could get paid for it and recycling it.”
He mentioned Maine Standard Biofuels and how the company collects used vegetable oil from restaurants and transfer stations across New England. He wondered why board members weren’t talking to the company and got the conversation and partnership going.
“It’s a win-win,” Giambro said. “It’s a great way to save the town money, especially with all the budget tightening that is happening around here. So hopefully the restaurants that don’t have waste oil pick up realize now they can bring it to the Transfer Station.”
Sessions said the recycling program isn’t only for restaurants, but for residents as well. He showed off the new vegetable oil drums.
“We got one full already, which is about 1,000 pounds out of the waste stream,” he said. “This has mostly been citizens. … It’s amazing how many people are bringing it in.”
Derek McIntosh, vice president of Maine Biofuels, said while a good portion of their business includes collecting used vegetable oil from restaurants, they also work with transfer stations.
“ When it comes to transfer stations [they] aren’t high-volume accounts,” he said. “But when they reach out to us …we will go there and say, ‘Hey, can we put a 55-gallon drum [here] so that way you aren’t smashing oil in your in compactor?’”
The company has diversified and is transitioning from an oil refinery only to a manufacturer. It now makes more than just biodiesel from used cooking oil, which its website describes as “a premium fuel with lower emissions” that is used in diesel vehicles and equipment. McIntosh said other products include heating fuel, industrial cleaners, lubricants, fifth wheel grease, bar and chain oil and tiki torch oil.
Sessions said the company is paying Norway-Paris Solid Waste a “minuscule” amount for its used vegetable oil. McIntosh said most of Maine Standard Biofuels customers are utilizing the free service and the company does pay some of its longtime customers to keep their accounts.
He explained how the vegetable and cooking oil recycling market works.
“Used cooking oil, which is also referred to as yellow grease, is a commodity like aluminum and cardboard. There is an attached value to the commodity. … It trades on the value of oil,” McIntosh said, noting the price of oil has dropped dramatically. “A lot of companies, our competitors, actually charge in this current market. … Being a Maine local, green energy company, our mission is to make it a solution for the restaurants and not have them incur any more cost than they have to. We don’t ever want to charge people.”
This is not the first time in recent memory NPSW has made a move to save taxpayers money and get unnecessary weight out of the waste stream. In February, NPSW contracted with We Compost It! in Scarborough to collect food scraps residents throw in compost bins at the Transfer Station instead of the garbage.
“We Compost It! – they run Maine Standard Biofuels biodiesel in their trucks, so it’s all linked together,” Giambro said.
And this isn’t the end of the recycling movement for Sessions. He said he plans to launch a paint recycling program at the Transfer Station in the future.