Turning Grease to Fuel, and Despair to Hope


Earl Wilson/The New York Times

Biodiesel can be more than just a fuel. Unlike the big mechanized refineries that produce fossil diesel (or liquid coal), collecting grease is dirty, heavy, labour-intensive work. The Doe Fund ("a non-profit organization that empowers people to break the cycles of homelessness, welfare dependency and incarceration through innovative paid work programs") has founded RWA Resource Recovery to provide "free, on-demand, efficient pickups of waste cooking oil to food service establishments in New York City....By farming the urban landscape and recycling all waste oil collected into biodiesel, RWA Resource Recovery provides a vehicle for food service establishments to, with no cost or hassle, participate in a movement for a cleaner, greener New York City."

The New York Times followed Lester Ross, a former heroin addict, and two employees on their rounds. "This stuff is dirty," said Mr. Ross, who earns $13 an hour; Mr. Rivera and Mr. Presswood each make $8 an hour. His face was drenched in sweat and his latex gloves were greasy, but he was content. "I like being a pioneer," he said. Mr. Presswood, 41, who had been homeless and a cocaine addict, and Mr. Rivera, 40, who had come to the program from jail, seemed pleased to be earning money at a regular job.

How many ways do we win with ideas like this. Restaurants get rid of their grease; people get real jobs and responsibility; Local biodiesel replaces fossil fuels. ::New York Times

Biodiesel from grease can't make a big dent, but it is local and helps eliminate waste. Larry's Beans, the organic fair trade coffee roaster Leonora wrote about,, runs their own delivery vehicle on straight vegetable oil, and supports the local biodiesel movement with a pump out front. TreeHugger Sami, in his day job, helped make a video promoting thier program. No orangutans were injured in the making of this film, it is palm oil free biodiesel.