Grease Power

San Francisco is turning a common kitchen waste into an alternative fuel.

by Lisa Munniksma

SFGreasecycle logo

Ever wonder what happens to the food waste that gets washed down your sink? San Francisco’s SFGreasecycle is answering this question in an unusual way. It’s turning waste oil into biodiesel. This “brown grease”—food wastes separated from waste water—will be used to produce three forms of alternative energy: biodiesel fuel for vehicles, boiler fuel for running sewage-treatment-plant equipment and methane to power the treatment plant.

SFGreasecycle was developed in response to the damage that used cooking grease was doing to the city’s sewers. It costs San Francisco more than $3.5 million each year to unclog its sewer pipes, and in 2006, approximately seven sewer-service calls per day were attributed to grease-related blockages.

Now, instead of being poured down the drain, this grease waste is being collected from city restaurants at no charge to the restaurant operators, resulting in economic and environmental savings for everyone. Restaurants can sign-up and SFGreasecycle will pick up or collect the waste grease for free.

Residential used-grease disposal is an issue for the city’s sewer system, as well. The organization is reminding San Francisco residents to collect their used cooking oil and grease in a container, rather than pouring it down the drain. Throw the container in the trash or take it to an SFGreasecycle drop-off event to add to the San Francisco grease power.

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