While renderers are most commonly known for recycling animal by-products generated from slaughter operations and meat processing activities, another important service provided by many firms is the collection of used cooking oil from food service operations. This oil is typically vegetable based (e.g., soy, canola, peanut oil, etc.) and is used by restaurants for deep-frying French fries, fish fillets, and other fried foods. While restaurants can typically filter and reuse their oil for some time, eventually its quality diminishes or it becomes contaminated and must be replaced. Some restaurants — especially fast food chains — generate large quantities of used cooking oil and for many environmental reasons this oil cannot be simply disposed of in trash containers or down the drain.
Renderers collect this oil and use it to produce yellow grease, which is most widely used as an additive for livestock feed where it provides important nutrients and improved palatability as well as reducing dust from handling the feed. Yellow grease also has various industrial applications, including in the manufacturing of soap, detergents, and other chemicals. In recent years yellow grease has been gaining popularity for the production of biodiesel/biofuels. Hence, used restaurant grease collection by renderers is another service that eliminates an environmental risk by converting a common “waste” product into a versatile and valuable industrial material.
However, due to used cooking oil’s increasing popularity in the biodiesel/biofuels industry, this commodity has become a target for theft. Members of the National Renderers Association (NRA) are working diligently to put a stop to the theft of this commodity and the damage often left behind to private property (used oil containers). In an effort to educate law enforcement, restaurants, and lawmakers, the NRA has released several papers explaining grease theft and the impact to not only rendering/grease collection businesses but to local communities and environmental, tax, and other local and national laws.