Out of the fryer and onto the road - Restaurants' waste cooking oil fuel 13 Warwick school busses

| 28 Sep 2011 | 03:01

    WARWICK — Lately, 13 school buses operated by the Warwick Valley School District may smell more like pop corn or French fries than diesel oil. And as though that news wasn’t good enough, they cost less to operate than the other 70 buses in the Warwick Valley School District’s fleet. Since any vehicle that operates on diesel oil can easily switch to fuel made from vegetable oils, many cities and towns are already using the environmentally friendly but somewhat expensive new fuel known as biodiesel in their trucks and school busses. Biodiesel is manufactured from fresh vegetable oils or animal fats. Waste vegetable oil, however, is not biodiesel but has many of the same advantages. And, in an excellent example of the benefits of recycling, is being donated by local area restaurants. “It’s a win-win situation,” said Warwick resident Bill Roche, co-owner of Park Place, an upscale restaurant in Goshen. “We would have to pay someone to dispose of our waste oil. With our style of cooking, we don’t use much deep frying oil but we donate whatever waste oil we have and, hopefully, it will help the school district save money.” Almost all of Warwick’s local restaurant owners also are on board with the new program. George Antoniades, co-owner of G’s, a popular Main Street restaurant, shares a leased waste oil bin with several nearby restaurants. Although they continue to pay the removal company for the use of the bin, the oil is now being picked up to be used as fuel for Warwick School District diesel busses. The waste cooking oil is filtered three times and then mixed with regular diesel fuel in a 20/80 per cent ratio. According to one estimate, the savings from using about 700 gallons of free waste vegetable oil each month will be about $15,000 per year. The district normally uses about 142,000 gallons of diesel fuel annually. “This seems to be a wonderful program,” said Antoniades. “The restaurant owners are all enthusiastic and they’re happy to make the necessary accommodations to help the school district save money. My only concern is that it’s not just a trial that will suddenly be discontinued after we’ve all become used to it.” That seems unlikely since burning the waste cooking oil collected from participating restaurants is part of an overall plan by the district, now under development, to cut costs. And mechanical inspections have proven that use of the oil has not caused any problems for the engines or any loss of power. It’s also better for the environment. The children riding the more pleasant smelling buses may be interested to know that Rudolf Diesel, inventor of the diesel engine, originally designed it to run on peanut oil.