Used Cooking Oil? Fuel? – How Some Initiatives Turn Cooking Oil Waste Into Power 

Used Cooking Oil? Fuel? – How Some Initiatives Turn Cooking Oil Waste Into Power 

As a regular person, I still have my own concerns when it comes to cooking oil. I mean, despite disposing of them in ways which I know to be the right one, what then? Will it just end up in the landfills, and clog some waterways or something? 

But since looking at these initiatives, I think I can be more at ease. 

Wandsworth Council powering garbage trucks with cooking oil 

The council is in the process of significantly upgrading its vehicle fleet. This involves acquiring new garbage and recycling collection trucks that are powered by vegetable oil rather than diesel. 

The town hall is taking steps to acquire 32 new garbage trucks that utilize recycled vegetable oil as part of a broader initiative aimed at decreasing the council’s carbon footprint and enhancing the fleet’s reliability.  

These new trucks will replace the town’s existing vehicle fleet, which has reached more than the recommended eight-year lifespan and has become increasingly unreliable. 

By having Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO) as their fuel source, the town’s new garbage trucks could achieve a remarkable 90% reduction in carbon emissions compared to diesel-powered vehicles, along with a 30% decrease in particulate emissions. 

HVO fuel is classified as a second-generation biofuel that can be derived from used cooking oil. This transition also opens up opportunities for the council to establish new partnerships with local restaurants for the recycling of their used cooking oils. 

Judi Gasser, Wandsworth’s Cabinet Member for Environment said “This is a really exciting initiative. We are just about to buy new garbage and recycling lorries which will run on recycled vegetable oil which will mean huge reductions in the council’s carbon footprint. Using vegetable oil instead of diesel will cut the emissions generated by our garbage service by 90 per cent. 

“Switching to more environmentally friendly fuels will have a really positive effect on air quality and provide enormous benefits to our residents. 

“And with the borough boasting so many pub and restaurant businesses, we will be hoping to build relationships with them, so that Wandsworth vehicles can run on Wandsworth vegetable oil. 

“The council has some very challenging carbon reduction targets. Making this switch will play a big role in achieving those targets.” 



Efforts to upcycle cooking oil and turning it into plane fuel 

The competition for acquiring waste cooking oil from restaurants and other sources is growing more intense in Japan, driven by the increasing demand for the production of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) as more aim to reduce carbon emissions. 

With many European companies procuring significant quantities of used cooking oil, certain Japanese dealers are now offering substantial prices to collect and export it overseas. 

As the export of waste cooking oil gets more frequent, a domestic company focused on large-scale SAF production is actively working to secure its supply. They have plans to establish storage tanks nationwide, including in the Chugoku region, to collect and store oil. 

SAF is a type of fuel derived from recycled materials like waste cooking oil, wood, and algae. It has the potential to reduce carbon emissions by up to 80% over its usage time compared to conventional jet fuel.  

However, challenges must be faced still, including its high production costs and the need for more robust supply chains. 

“In order to realize stable production of SAF, we will set up waste cooking oil collection sites across the country,” said an official of Revo International, a Kyoto-based producer of biofuels. 

In partnership with Cosmo Oil and JGC Holdings, Revo is gearing up to launch the nation’s inaugural large-scale production of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) as early as the fiscal year 2024. 

Simultaneously, various other companies are in a race to buy waste cooking oil. According to Revo, some of the restaurants they work with have even offered higher prices for used oil. A Revo representative stated, “There is a dealer now offering over ¥500 for an 18-liter square can, which is five times more than before.” 

Pushing for more SAF 

In order to reduce aviation-related carbon emissions, the government has established a goal for domestic airlines to replace 10% of their jet fuel with SAF by 2030. 

The estimated demand for SAF in 2030 stands at 1.71 million kiloliters, but considering the current circumstances, the supply capacity within Japan is expected to be approximately 70% of that figure. 


vegetable oil in plastic bags. Photo by Mattes Wikimedia Commons


Some companies are seeking to expand the types of raw materials that can be used to produce SAF, as well as getting suppliers from different places. 

Euglena, a Tokyo-based biofuels developer aiming to commercialize SAF production using used cooking oil, stated, “We will procure (raw materials) at home and abroad, including oil that is disposed of during the process of producing cooking oil.” 

In April, the government established a public-private council with the aim of fostering collaboration among companies involved in domestic SAF production. 

The Japan Transport and Tourism Research Institute stated, “In order to encourage the use of waste cooking oil within the country, it is necessary to cooperate with convenience stores and supermarkets to prevent the product from being shipped abroad, and for the government to offer assistance.” 

LG Chem also upcycles cooking oil 

LG Chem Ltd. Has planned to initiate a biodiesel project that centers around the usage of waste cooking oil as a part of its commitment to renewable resources. 

According to sources within the industry, the South Korean chemical company has been in the process of finalizing an agreement with a global supplier of waste cooking oil. It aims to establish a stable and long-term source of this biobased material. 

This forms a critical component of LG Chem’s initiative to incorporate this material into the production of biobased aviation fuels, similar to what happens in Japan. 

In addition to its core areas of secondary batteries and innovative pharmaceuticals, LG Chem is increasingly emphasizing renewable materials. Waste cooking oil is now playing a pivotal role in the development of such materials.  

By securing a sustainable supply of waste cooking oil, LG Chem’s objective is to manufacture aviation fuel, specifically diesel, which will subsequently be distributed to airlines for their operational needs. 


a cup of vegetable oil. Photo by Famartin Wikimedia Commons


Vegetable oil industry waste can also become power 

Now, it’s not only the used cooking oil which get all the attention—researchers in Iran have also found an innovative and cost-efficient way to turn waste from vegetable oil industry into power. 

The Iranian researchers have made anode catalyst which can enhance and stabilize the power generation performance of microbial fuel cells (MFCs) when used in the treatment of wastewater from the vegetable oil industry. 

In a recently published paper in the Journal of Chemical Technology and Biotechnology, the scientists explained that MFCs turn bacteria as catalysts. It then will convert the chemical energy present in organic matter within wastewater into electricity.  

For some time, this research team was exploring ways to modify electrodes to enhance the efficiency of this technology. 

Hossein Jafari Mansoorian, the corresponding author, and his research group also looked into cathode modification, seeking a cost-effective alternative to platinum. They found that carbon modified with powdered activated carbon (PAC) derived from Bambuseae (a bamboo plant family), proved to be effective. 

Mansoorian emphasized the substantial volume of wastewater generated by the vegetable oil industry, making the current high-energy wastewater treatment methods unsustainable. 

However, the team stated some limitations from their discovery. For example, the materials employed in MFCs are costly and the membranes used to separate the electrodes are susceptible to fouling. 

“Nevertheless, MFCs undeniably hold promise in terms of energy recovery during wastewater treatment, carving out a niche in the market as a standalone power source and in the direct treatment of wastewater,” Mansoorian said. 



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