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National Restaurant Association - Restaurants serve up fryer oil for retail biofuel station

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Restaurants serve up fryer oil for retail biofuel station

McKay Johnson.jpg

Ecofriendly restaurateurs are the driving force behind a new biodiesel fueling station that opened in Atlanta last month.

The retail station, which debuted June 21, was created by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and Clean Energy Biofuels and sells biodiesel fuel made from the fryer oil of various restaurants in the city.

According to McKay Johnson, president of Clean Energy Biofuels, any and all foodservice establishments that use fryers can sell their used grease, which is stored in bins outside of their establishments and collected on a monthly basis. Participants get paid on a quarterly basis for their oil.

"Our sales teams go out and approach the restaurants," he said, "and if they're interested, we sign them up."

The restaurateurs, he noted, also understand that Clean Energy Biofuels operates differently from some of its competitors in that it uses the oil to produce biodiesel fuel and nothing else.

"What we do differently is [provide] a full-circle mentality that allows people to see that when they give us their grease we're turning it into biodiesel," he said. "They can see how it's helping the local economy and environment."

Johnson noted that several foodservice companies, such as Fifth Group Restaurants, owner of South City Kitchen, Ecco and Bold American Catering, who sell him their grease, are members of Zero Waste Zones, which was created by sustainability concern Elemental Impact in 2009 and acquired by the National Restaurant Association in late 2012. Other restaurants selling their grease to Clean Energy include Moe's Southwest Grill, Ruth's Chris, Baja Fresh and Café Circa.

"The Atlanta retail biofuel station is a perfect example of the community working together on a local solution where everyone wins," said Holly Elmore, Elemental Impact's founder and CEO. "The spent fryer grease is collected from the local foodservice operators, made into biodiesel at a local production facility and sold to local consumers for clean energy transportation. Plus, it's an extra revenue stream that restaurateurs maybe hadn't considered before. They can make money while reducing waste at the same time."

Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, said the waste oil is collected from 200 restaurants, and added that each one receives a plaque and sticker that can be used to help promote their participation to their environmentally conscious customers.

"This is the only [operation] in Atlanta where a local restaurant can know for sure that [the oil] going out the back door will end up in their customers' tanks when they drive up to the front door," he said. "This is a win-win from cradle to grave. They're keeping the grease out of sewer systems and diverting it to a higher use. They're giving back something that is clean. It's a virtuous circle."

Johnson said once the oil is converted into biofuel, the retail station sells it at a price comparable to fuel sold at traditional stations. He noted that the current price per gallon is approximately $3.85.

Pictured, top right: Colleen Kiernan of the Georgia Sierra Club, left, and McKay Johnson of Clean Energy Biofuels fill up Kiernan's car with biofuel produced from used fryer oil.

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