Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Many cashing in on business of recycling used cooking oil

Used cooking oil, to most, is considered a waste product with no value, but to some it is considered liquid gold.
With the huge potential it holds, many are cashing in and grabbing a piece of the pie, resulting in a largely unregulated industry.

A biodiesel producer, Kris Biofuels Sdn Bhd (KBSB) acknowledges the need for a review of the industry.

Its business development manager Jaafar Abdullah said there was a lot of demand for used cooking oil but because the entire industry had almost no regulation at all, it was open to abuse.

KBSB collaborates with several local authorities, including the Petaling Jaya City Council, Kuala Lumpur City Hall, Shah Alam City Council and Ampang Jaya Municipal Council.

The company was established in 2009 with the goal of producing biodiesel in an ethical manner and, at the same time, create awareness by engaging communities and businesses to help reduce climate change effectively by empowering them through the benefits of using clean energy.

“The business of collecting used cooking oil has existed in Malaysia over the past 20 years but it is only in the past eight years that it has boomed, with many new players entering the market.

“In the beginning, the collectors used to pay shops, restaurants and hotels a paltry sum of 30sen to 50sen per kg, but once demand shot up, the used cooking oil can be sold for up to RM2 per kg,” he said.

“When KBSB ventured into the business four years ago, we had little competition in biodiesel production locally. But we did, and still do, have a lot of competition from small groups who collect used cooking oil for other companies for export and those intend to use the oil in other products,” he added.

According to Jaafar, used cooking oil can be processed into various products such as candles, soap, additives for animal feed and biodiesel that is used in diesel-powered vehicles, generators and other machinery powered by diesel.

“The reason there is an especially large market in Malaysia for used cooking oil is because the price of cooking oil here is subsidised by the Government.

“Since it is much more expensive overseas, there is already a demand in place to export it overseas where they can convert it into biodiesel,” he said.

He said the used cooking oil business was nationwide, with collectors operating even in Sabah and Sarawak.

He highlighted that in the unregulated industry, the problem arose when the used cooking oil was collected indiscriminately from food stalls and kitchens and processed for use in the manufacturing of products such as soap, perfume, candles and animal feed.

“As for the used cooking oil that is exported overseas, it would be unethical that we stop caring once it is out of our country, because Malaysia is regarded as an international halal hub,” he said.

Hence, Jaafar believes converting the used cooking into biodiesel was the best solution for all.

Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) Health and Environment Depart-ment director Dr Hayati Abdullah said the issue regarding used cooking oil was rather tricky and a grey area for many government departments because it was not clearly stipulated in any laws or guidelines.

She stressed that it was dangerous for food outlets to buy and use reprocessed used cooking oil because they could not ascertain the origins.

“The health and religious implications are very wide but the laws surrounding it are not very clear, this is one reason we have little authority to act on it,” she said.

She reasoned that because of the religious complexities here, it was best to restrict and ensure used cooking oil was only turned into biodiesel.

She pointed out that the best way to regulate the industry was at the source, where business outlets sell the used oil to collectors.

“If we can educate the public and the business operators on the big picture of where their used cooking oil may end up, and teach them to sell it to responsible reprocessors, then half the battle is already won.

“Once we have a proper law or guidelines to tackle this issue, then it will empower us and all other local councils to be able to monitor and act on this issue effectively,” she added.

At their factory plant in Shah Alam, KBSB processes almost 20 tonnes of used cooking oil every month into biodiesel.

Jaafar said creating biodiesel required stringent monitoring and accurate mixtures of various compounds to produce purified biodiesel of the highest quality.

“Methanol and alkaline catalyst are additives that are essential in creating cleaner biofuel energy.

“This process is called ‘transesterfication’. After this process is complete, the biodiesel is further purified until it meets the benchmark of quality.

“We produce purified biodiesel that is non-toxic and virtually sulphur-free biodegradable diesel,” he added.

“Collecting used cooking oil has a huge direct and indirect impact on society, economy and the environment.

“Business operators earn extra cash by selling their used oil, and businesses as well as local councils spend less money cleaning up oil-clogged drains. Less filth means less chances of pests and rodents to breed and utlimately it keeps the drains and rivers clean, which means healthier living for everyone,” Jaafar said.

Residential network

He said despite the used cooking oil business having existed for the past two decades, it has barely scratched the surface involving residential units.

“Over the past two years, we have been working with several local councils to set up collection centres in schools, mosques and public housing (PPR) flats.

“So far, our campaign has seen very strong response from these communities and we hope we can expand this programme to many more residential areas, with more support from the Federal Govern-ment and other state governments,” he said.


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