Theft-proof Lids Working "Great"

By Tina Caparella

With prices for used cooking oil at an all-time high, grease theft continues to run rampant and affect the bottom line of companies that collect this hot commodity. Many hire private investigators, install cameras, and try various other means in keeping a discarded waste product from falling prey to thieves.

Two years ago, a new theft-proof lid for used grease containers was introduced to the industry by Onkens, Inc., a manufacturer of used kitchen grease containers since 1984. The lid, constructed of 14 gauge steel, has a locking mechanism on the center of the fold lid to prevent the hinge joint from being pried up and drop-in pins on the front two corners that are secured by a “hockey puck” style lock. These locks are designed to prevent access to the hasp and keep it from being cut. The lid is then secured at the back of any 300 gallon grease container by a heavy duty hinge and can be unlocked at the front and folded half way back to pump, or unlocked fully for dumping, all without ever removing the lid. While keeping the grease secure, the lid also acts as a deterrent since a lot of time, effort, and tools would be needed to break one of the lids.

At the time Render reported on the new product in October 2009, only a few grease collectors were using the lids but all were pleased with the results. Bob Soracco of American By-Products in Newark, NJ, was a “very happy grease guy” after replacing plastic lids with the theft-deterrent lids on about half of their existing containers. Today, he continues to add lids as needed and has included his own modification of a band around the lid to further discourage thieves.

“The lids are definitely a deterrent and make it harder to get to the grease,” Soracco commented.

George Dewitt Guttridge, Darling International, Inc., who along with the company’s transportation manager John Latino approached Onkens in 2008 with their ideas for a theft-proof lid, was equally as satisfied with the resulting product and immediately put them on over 100 containers in high-theft areas. Although the lids have been working quite well, Darling has also made a few changes that have been passed on to Onkens. First, a security bar has been added across the front of the lid to prevent prying in the middle, and the company has invested in a better quality lock, which even at $40 a pop, Guttridge said is a cheap investment. Two additional locks have been added at each front corner of the lid.

“We call them super lids,” Guttridge commented. Currently, Darling is replacing plastic lids with the new theft-deterrent lids on 50 to 75 containers each month based on recommendations by the company’s grease collection drivers and concerns raised by restaurant customers whose grease is being stolen. Darling is also educating customers on grease theft and its ramifications, such as the restaurant not receiving compensation for the used cooking oil. Restaurants are also instructed what to do if they should spot thieves, such as taking down a license plate number and description of the suspects. Guttridge reported that the company gets from 40 to 50 phone calls per month from restaurant owners who have witnessed illegal activity, which is then passed on to law enforcement for investigation.

“Theft is never going to go away,” he proclaimed. “But little by little we’re making progress.”

As word got out about the new lids, other grease collectors and renderers seized the opportunity to secure the golden grease that thieves were stealing. Jeff Burke, Western Mass. Rendering, bought only a few lids at first and put them on containers in locations in the New England area and portions of New York where pilfering was high.

“It was working,” he declared. Now, half of the renderer’s container orders are fitted with the theft-deterrent lids and the volume of grease collected has increased. “It keeps an honest man honest,” pointed out Burke. The company has had a few thefts but Burke “definitely thinks they do work.”

On a larger scale, JBS-MOPAC has installed the lids on at least 60 percent of its grease containers, or about 1,000 bins, up and down the East Coast, from Florida to Maine, in areas where it would be too expensive to install cameras or hire private investigators. According to John Cramer in the company’s purchasing department in Souderton, PA, JBS-MOPAC has spent about $500,000 on new containers and lids, and estimates a 50 percent return on that investment due to the grease being there when drivers arrive.

“They’ve been working great,” Cramer commented. By the end of this year, about 75 percent of the company’s containers will feature the theft-deterrent lids. JBS-MOPAC has taken it one step further and added a cut-proof lock to the lids. Cramer admits one container was broken into but the thief spent a lot of time on the effort.

October 2011 RENDER | back