BETHESDA, MD.—Now that’s a lot of cooking oil. According to Brad Nelson, corporate chef and vice president of culinary for Marriott International, the company’s hotels in North America generate about 5.5 million pounds of used cooking oil each year. Add in the properties outside North America and that number just about doubles. With so much spent cooking oil to deal with, what’s a company the size of Marriott to do? This past summer the company started a test program at just a few properties in the Washington, D.C. area that resulted in the cooking oil being converted to biodiesel. The company picking up the oil: Greenlight Biofuels, a subsidiary of Charlottesville, Va.-based Greenlight Energy Resources.
The program at the test properties has since been expanded to include a total of thirteen Marriott, Renaissance, JW Marriott, and Courtyard hotels in the D.C. area and Marriott’s corporate headquarters in Bethesda, Md. Marriott is in the process of rolling out the program to all of its properties.
“Oil recycling is something I have been interested in for years,” Nelson says. “But I have been disappointed with the number of companies out there that pick up the oil for recycling.”
‘A More Sustainable Platform’
Nelson explained that for years the used kitchen oil and fat at Marriott hotels has been picked up by companies for eventual use in cosmetics, the fast food industry, as animal feed, or “places the public does not want to know about.” In his blog, Nelson said, “We prefer to direct these oils into a more sustainable platform, one that ultimately provides ecological benefits in line with our global green initiatives.”
To make it easier for its hotels to connect with vendors that supply biodiesel makers, Marriott has posted a list of these vendors on its intranet. Hotels participating in the program need not adjust their oil and fat collection process; it is just a different vendor picking up the “waste” from the loading dock. Nelson said he is particularly pleased with Greenlight Biofuels because they also compost the particles that are removed from the oil during the conversion process.
For those properties participating in the program, the recycling process is “cost neutral,” Nelson said. “There is a very small windfall—so small that it is very insignificant. If we see another spike in oil prices, that will change.”
Addresses Petroleum Import Issue
Nelson said the oil recycling program is one of the easiest things a hotel can do to have a positive impact on the environment. Every gallon of biodiesel produced here in the United States is one less gallon of petroleum that needs to be imported from outside the country.
“There is no quick fix to our energy problem but collectively we can make a huge difference,” Nelson said. “I am excited about the roles our chefs are taking to become more aware.”
Nelson added that Marriott is not currently purchasing biodiesel to close the recycling loop but it is something the company would like to pursue over the long term.
Click here for more information on Marriott’s green initiatives.
Glenn Hasek can be reached at email@example.com.