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An Example of How One Company is Making Cooking Oil Management More Efficient & Better for the Planet

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MENDOTA HEIGHTS, MINN.—Almost 270 million pounds of cooking oil is difficult to comprehend but that is the amount taken out of the waste stream in 2021 by Restaurant Technologies, Inc. (RT). RT is one example of a company that has automated the cooking oil-management business while also closing the loop on it.

Restaurants and other food and beverage operations manage their cooking oil in different ways. In one typical scenario, according to Diana Geseking, General Counsel and Secretary for RT, a restaurant will purchase jugs of oil from an oil producer. These jugs, also known as JIBs (jug-in-box) are sometimes tossed once the oil is poured. The cooking oil, once used, is filtered manually or automatically and then placed in a metal container for pickup by a recycler or bagged where Geseking says it can be taken to a landfill.

In another eco-friendlier scenario, once collected and taken by a recycler, the filtered cooking oil, also known as yellow grease, is treated with methanol and a catalyst, producing glycerin as a byproduct. The glycerin is used in many different applications, from cosmetics to toothpaste. Finally, the excess methanol is processed out, leaving pure biofuel behind. Biofuel can be mixed in with conventional diesel to create a more sustainable, eco-friendly fuel. The biofuel has a low carbon content, and it doesn’t produce carbon monoxide.

“Used cooking oil is already playing a part in powering airplanes, shipping goods cross-country, and heating homes, while reducing the environmental impact of all those activities,” RT says.

A Total Oil Management Solution

Foodservice operators who choose RT’s Total Oil Management Solutions—an eco-friendly option—let RT handle the oil from delivery to recycling. First, two tanks are installed—one for bulk fresh cooking oil and one for waste oil—in a back-of-house area. The tanks are connected to the fryers and a port installed in an exterior wall. RT then installs automatic controls inside the fryers so employees can easily add, filter, and dispose of oil at the push of a button. RT offers system configurations for all fryer types—even those without built-in filtration. RT’s service trucks deliver fresh cooking oil and remove restaurant grease via a lockable outdoor fill box. A large portion of grease picked up by RT trucks is recycled by Chevron Renewable Energy Group. The entire process is done according to the foodservice operation’s schedule and cooking oil usage, which can be remotely and automatically monitored. RT’s online, subscription-based fryer Filtration Monitoring system tracks the frequency and duration of filtration activities. Any deviation from the standard schedule will prompt an e-mail alert.

By delivering cooking oil to its customers in bulk, RT eliminates the plastic, cardboard, and residual oil waste that goes along with the manufacture, delivery, and use of traditional JIB oil containers.

With its 41 depots, or collection centers, RT can service the U.S. efficiently. Eliminating the handling of cooking oil by on-site staff also eliminates the safety hazards of handling and transporting grease. “We eliminate the riskiest jobs,” Geseking says. “We automate them. We are safer, smarter, and sustainable.”

Last August, RT announced it started utilizing biofuels from Chevron Renewable Energy Group in its commercial vehicle fleet. The step is unique because the biofuels come from RT’s own total oil management business. For more than 10 years, RT has provided Chevron Renewable Energy Group with used cooking oil, collected from its more than 36,000 customers including quick-service and full-service restaurant chains, independent restaurants, grocers, hotels, casinos, universities, and hospitals. The used oil is utilized as a feedstock to produce biodiesel and renewable diesel. With RT now utilizing these lower carbon fuels in its own fleet, the two organizations are creating a working circular economy.

Biofuel Already Being Used in Iowa

Biodiesel and renewable diesel are lower carbon alternatives to traditional petroleum diesel that may help fleet operators reduce the lifecycle carbon intensity of their operations. The fuels are traditionally utilized as a blend, either being blended with one another to produce a 100 percent renewable fuel or blended with petroleum diesel. RT uses a B20 blend, 30 to 50 percent InfiniD (biodiesel), with the remainder petroleum diesel. Chevron Renewable Energy Group is already delivering biofuels to power RT’s fleet located at the Des Moines, Iowa depot, with plans to expand to more depot locations across the nation.

More Ways to Add Efficiency

In addition to providing oil management solutions, RT also offers AutoMist for hood and flue cleaning. Instead of allowing airborne grease to settle in the hood and flue, the AutoMist system automatically sprays a mixture of non-hazardous detergent and water every day, removing grease that’s present and preventing future buildup. AutoMist was designed with fire prevention in mind. When grease is not allowed to accumulate in the first place, the potential for an ignition in the hood and flue is drastically reduced.

RT also offers Grease Lock which eliminates the nightly task of cleaning the vent hood filter. Up to 98 percent of the grease is collected by a disposable filter pad. Grease Lock filter pads are all natural. They are carbon-neutral and will break down in the landfill. Also, by not needing to clean vent hood filters nightly, one saves on water and chemicals.

More to Tell in ESG Report

To get a complete picture of RT’s sustainability efforts, one can read the company’s inaugural ESG report.

In regard to the report, Geseking says, “RT has always had a great ESG story and didn’t have a chance to tell it properly. We finally had a chance to take a hard look at all our efforts.”

Said Jeff Kiesel, President, and CEO of RT, in the report, “We really are just beginning our journey with ESG initiatives. We’re very excited about it. We will continue to help more and more customers reduce their carbon footprint. Not only do they want to have good food, but they want to do it in a way that’s going to be sustainable and have a positive impact on their local environment and the world in general.”

In 2021, RT established sustainability metrics that enable it to calculate the emissions savings benefits each customer receives when its oil management systems are implemented.

Glenn Hasek can be reached at greenlodgingnews@gmail.com.

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