One of our readers works with
a company that converts used vegetable oils to biodiesel fuel. He read the
potato chip article in the January 20 newsletter. His
inside information will make you want to avoid potato chips even more.
"After speaking with potato chip manufacturers, I would like to
comment on potato chips, and I hope this is a working email for
My company is researching the production of biodiesel from used
vegetable oil, and has contacted manufacturers which we suspected would
produce the most waste oil. What comes to mind? Well, greasy potato chips
(just look at your fingers after you eat them!) and donuts came to mind,
after contacting the obvious home-run hitters, McDonald's and
Contrary to what you might think, it seems the worst abusers of
vegetable oils were not McDonald's, but potato chip and donut
One manufacturer replied to my offer to purchase their used oil
with the explanation that they hardly have any used oil left-over after
the process. Tens of thousands of gallons come in, barely
hundreds come out.
The reason? This manufacturer recycles the oil until it is entirely
absorbed by the food. All that dirty oil eventually ends
up in the potato chips themselves.
One problem that occurs after re-using vegetable oils is that FFA's
(free fatty acids) concentrate. The manufacturer volunteered this fact and
noted that their solution is to chemically treat the oil
to reduce the FFA's, after which it is sent back to
produce more potato chips. Mmmm -- re-used vegetable oil treated with
chemicals to reduce free fatty acids!
It turns out that these oils are so bad that biodiesel
manufacturers shun them! In other words, they are difficult to catalyze
into methyl-esters (biodiesel) and producers are reluctant to use them for
engine fuel, yet people still eat the potato chips!
That brings us to the last time I ate a donut, those nicely-colored
sweet confections. If you only saw the waste products. My offer to pick up
one donut shop's used oil for free was met by much enthusiasm by the
management, and they told me that I could pick up a 55-gallon drum once
every 6 months.
Did you ever go inside the donut shop and look at how much oil they
have in those vats? Now consider that they only dispose of 55 gallons
every 6 months! They would have given me more if they had it because I
offered to pick it up for free, while they have to pay a renderer over $
200 / month for disposal.
One closed-down shop asked me to pick up their barrel of used
vegetable oil from their parking lot because it was
leaking and causing ENVIRONMENTAL DAMAGE. I tried to
drain the oil out, but it was so thick and sludgy that it clogged my pump.
I was considering using a heavy-duty sewage pump to drain it, but decided
not to, because the thick, smelly contents of that barrel were not usable
as an ingredient for fuel, and refining it would be too expensive.
The material had an uncanny resemblance to sewage. The only reason
I knew it wasn't, was that it had a sweet, donut-like smell to it, but
Scientific facts like knowing the carcinogen content of these
"foods" is interesting, but if you want real motivation to avoid junk
foods, go to the back of the "restaurant" were they dispose of their
environmentally-harmful by-product and take a look. Also, you can ask them
why they have to keep the stuff in barrels and wait for an expensive
disposal service instead of just sending it down the drain?
The reason: the Environmental Protection Agency does not allow it?
The utility companies know that one of the reasons that raw sewage
leaks out of the sewers and into our public water supply is that
restaurants still illegally dump their used oil down their sinks, causing
build-up and clogs to occur. I saw a picture of the clog once --
it looked like a blocked artery.
Go ahead, have another potato chip -- you are doing our
environment a favor by "disposing" of that garbage with your own internal
garbage disposal system. Your sink's garbage disposal system will wear out
every five years and can be replaced for about $80, but how will you
replace your stomach, liver and kidneys and arteries?"
Maryland Green Power Co.