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Cooking oil’s second life: biodiesel

Chunichi Shimbun

Japan has seen an increase in efforts to recycle used cooking oil — a byproduct of supermarkets and cafeterias — as biodiesel to use as a substitute for light diesel oil fuel for vehicles.

Improvements in purification techniques have allowed biodiesel to be almost as fuel-efficient as light oil. There are high expectations for this mode of energy recycling since it has the additional benefits of reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

In October, NGK Insulators Ltd., based in Nagoya, experimented with biodiesel in one of is forklifts used for moving goods at the company’s ceramics plant.

It found that it was just as fuel-efficient as light oil, requiring only 50 liters once every four days even though the forklift was used for around four hours each day.

“It was just as powerful (as light oil), so much that I wouldn’t even have noticed that they’ve changed the fuel,” said a driver of the forklift.

The biodiesel was converted from frying oil from the cafeteria at NGK Insulators’ plant. The factory kitchen produces about 3,600 liters of waste oil annually.

The oil was first sold to Dai- seki Eco. Solution Co., a company providing soil contamination solutions that has a purification facility, processed, and then sold back to NGK as biodiesel.

Biodiesel costs a few yen more per liter than light oil. However, biodiesel is considered carbon neutral, as the carbon dioxide released from burning vegetable oil is offset by the absorption of carbon dioxide during the vegetables’ growing process. This gives biodiesel a net zero carbon footprint.

By using biodiesel, NGK will be able to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by some 8,000 kg a year.

“We can reduce company wastage and carbon dioxide emissions. It’s like killing two birds with one stone. I think it also gives the staff a higher awareness of environmental issues when they see the recycling process with their own eyes,” commented a staff member in charge of NGK’s environmental management department.

Currently, NGK only runs one forklift on biodiesel, but it hopes to implement changes at some of its other factories once the fuel-efficiency of the biodiesel has been fully assessed.

Yamanaka supermarket, based Nagoya, contracted Daiseki Eco. Solution in April to collect frying oil from its takeout deli stores in the Tokai region. Starting in November, they have increased the number of stores that deal with Daiseki Eco. from 30 to 46, and the firm is considering using the biodiesel it bought back to fuel its trucks.

“We are also thinking of donating the profits we earned through the transaction process to environmental groups,” said a representative of Yamanaka.

Daiseki Eco. Solution began its biodiesel business in March, and the company plans to produce about 3,000 kiloliters of biodiesel annually.

It is currently operating at 30 percent capacity.

Since it started, the total number of clients and suppliers has grown from 11 to 50.

“We hope to increase the number of clients so that we can mass produce and subsequently reduce the price of our biodiesel,” an official at Daiseki Eco. Solution said.

This section, appearing Saturdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published on Nov. 2.