The Illinois based fast food company, McDonald's, is recycling used cooking oil to generate biodiesel to power its supply delivery trucks, which was previously being discarded through disposal partners. The popular eating joint has partnered with Unicon Biofuels for the pilot project that started last year. Hardcastle Restaurants Pvt. Ltd. (HRPL), which is the master franchisee of McDonald's in west and South India, has currently rolled out the concept in 85 restaurants in Mumbai, and will soon expand to Bengaluru.
Vikram Ogale, Director of National Supply Chain & Quality Assurance, McDonald's India, indicated, in a report by PTI, that the company converts more than 35,000 liters of used cooking oil every month into biodiesel; which, in turn, aids in saving more than 4,20,000 liters of crude oil annually. The fuel thus created emits 75 per cent less carbon than diesel and petrol. Sandeep Chaturvedi, President of Biodiesel Association of India, hailed the move stating, "All food companies to learn from this initiative and apply it in their own business model."
Biodiesel is a form of alternative fuel made from either vegetable oil, animal fats, or waste cooking oil. The process of converting these products into Biodiesel is called Transesterification. Upon combustion, Biodiesel absorbs the same amount of carbon di-oxide (CO2) as it releases in the environment, and is thus described as 'carbon neutral.'
In order to produce Biodiesel, taking a fast food joint as an example, the restaurant:
a) First, used oil is collected in a container. In this state the oil contains water and food particles making it unusable for biodiesel production.
b) A vacuum truck comes by to collect the oil in its raw state and transports it to a filtering plant.
c) The raw oil is pumped into a holding tank and heated to dry out the water contained in the oil. Once the water is out, the oil is ready to enter a multi-stage filtering process.
d) The oil goes through a vibrating sieve which strains out the larger pieces of debris. Next, it passes through a second vibrating sieve with a finer mesh to catch minute particles of debris. After the second stage, the oil looks clean, but still contains microscopic debris, so it enters the third and final filtering stage passing through twenty ultra-fine filter cloths which trap any particles larger than one micron in size.
e) Ultimately, we are left with a refined layer of oil which can be used for consumption.
In the U.K., McDonalds has used biodiesel to power its delivery lorries since the past decade, which has helped in curbing 7,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year. Using 2015 as a base year, McDonald's intends to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 36 per cent by 2030.
Disclaimer: Though cooking oil is a great substitute, not all diesel engines support it. Older diesel engines with mechanical injection systems will work well with cooking oil, but, modern engines with common rail or ECU controlled electronic injection won't be able to use it as fuel.