Volunteer firefighter Simon Chadwick shows off a container for used cooking oil at the entrance to the Metchosin’s public works yard.

Volunteer firefighter Simon Chadwick shows off a container for used cooking oil at the entrance to the Metchosin’s public works yard.

Reducing fossil fuel use by recycling used oil

Metchosin encourages use of oil drop-off bin for residents

A large green container is languishing in Metchosin’s public works yard.

A look inside reveals an almost empty bin, but Metchosin Coun. Moralea Milne said she hopes residents of the rural community will help themselves and the environment, by filling it up with their used cooking oil.

“It’s always a good idea to try to reduce the use of fossil fuels, and this is a way to use recycled materials. People have a difficult time getting rid of it anyways and it seemed a smart thing to do,” she said. “I am worried about global climate change and we are always looking for ways to reduce our footprint and helping everyone else reduce theirs as well.”

Metchosin council approved a $1,200 grant in June 2012 for Cowichan Energy Alternatives, a non-profit that helps promote low-carbon, green initiatives throughout Vancouver Island. Used oil dropped off in the container is picked up and turned into biofuels that CEA executive director Brian Roberts says offer a clean, renewable energy source that could significantly reduce carbon emissions and the use of fossil fuels.

The program allows for a drop-off of the oils in a sealed container anytime the public works yard is open and can also help save tax dollars, he said.

“This program is important to municipalities for a number of different reasons. If you are lucky (oil is) going into the landfill, but the dirty secret is (most people) turn the hot water on and pour it down the sink,” Roberts said. “Like the hardening of the arteries of the city, it gels and the sewer, and pipes get thinner and thinner (because oil) covers the lining of the pipes with FOG or fats, oils and grease.”

Such inappropriate disposal has led to maintenance costs for municipalities in the hundreds of thousands, to millions of dollars to repair, clean or replace the pipes. A good way to get rid of the used oil is to drop it off so the biodiesel co-ops CEA partners with can repurpose it as a renewable resource.

“We were the first people in North America to actually have a residential recycling program drop box to drop off,” Roberts said. “It is also a valuable resource. There is a higher purpose to turn it into a biofuel instead of a problem. (This can actually be) a solution.”

alim@goldstreamgazette.com