Food waste could be turned into fuel

| August 08, 2010

Waste cooking oil and chunks of farmed animals that are currently used to manufacture cosmetics and animal food might instead be converted locally into biodiesel.

A fleet of trucks delivers some of the food industry’s grossest byproducts six days a week to a rendering facility that operates, sometimes 24 hours a day, in the Backlands area.

The Backlands is a 23-acre industrial park operated by the Port of San Francisco along The City’s southeastern shoreline, where cargo ships, trains and trucks frequently arrive and depart.

Drivers working for the Darling International-owned rendering facility collect roughly 2.5 million pounds of fat, bone and other animal parts every week from butchers, grocers and slaughterers.

In addition, approximately 160,000 gallons of used cooking oil and grease are collected weekly from restaurants and other food preparers, city documents show.

The waste is trucked into the Backlands and melted down. High-quality tallow produced by the rendering process is sold to soap and cosmetics manufacturers while lower-quality tallow is used for animal feed.

Darling International proposed improving its rendering process to allow it to produce biodiesel, which could be sold for higher prices and blended or used by its customers instead of fossil fuel-derived diesel. Biodiesel produced at the Amador Street facility would be sold to customers in the Bay Area, including other Backlands tenants such as a rail operator that burns diesel.

“Darling is working closely with The City to find demand,” company spokesman Brad Phillips said. “It seemed natural to work with a city that’s committed to finding green solutions to our nation’s oil dependence.”

Biodiesel produced by the facility would help reduce the use of fossil fuels, but the San Francisco Green Party opposes the $15 million overhaul, according to party spokesman Eric Brooks. The opposition to the project is based on health impacts and party principles.

“Biodiesel has high nitrogen oxide levels,” Brooks said. “Nitrogen oxide creates ozone that creates smog, and smog is really bad for human health.”

The use of biofuels in general can cause edible food to be burned as fuel. Using factory-farmed animals as fuel also is a concern for the party, according to Brooks.

But the proposal, which would require approval from city lawmakers, is supported by Port staff.

“What they’re bringing in for rendering are leftover parts that would otherwise be turned into tallow or landfill,” Port official Richard Berman said. “Biodiesel is not going to alter the demand for domesticated animals.”

jupton@sfexaminer.com

 

Making use of waste

Products processed weekly at Backlands rendering facility:

2.5 million Pounds of fat, bone, trimmings

450,000 Pounds of used cooking oil

750,000 Pounds of grease from restaurants

Source: San Francisco Planning Department

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