NEW YORK - The years of restaurants having to pay companies to take their used cooking grease are over. Today, those businesses are having to battle with thieves over the used fryer oil, the New York Times reports.
With demand for biofuel skyrocketing, cooking grease now commands about 40 cents per pound €" quadruple what it cost a decade ago €" which upped the interest in stealing used fryer oil. Virginia and California have passed special statutes regulating how grease is collected from commercial kitchens, and North Carolina lawmakers will likely vote on a similar measure this spring.
Despite the fact that law enforcement officials, particularly in California, have begun to keep an eye on the problem, many times, the courts have no interest in the thefts. "It€™s very difficult to get district attorneys to take it seriously," said Douglas Hepper, who leads the California state agency in charge of grease disposal. "They€™re busy with murders and meth labs and they have limited budgets themselves, so they have to set priorities."
Used kitchen grease previously sat in a Dumpster behind the restaurant, but that has changed now that restaurants can sell the stuff to companies for around $300 per container. The companies that buy and the restaurants that sell the grease have started lobbying law enforcement and state governments to do something about the thefts.
Darling International, a rendering company, is one business that has appealed to police and prosecutors to take used fryer oil theft seriously. Darling, which operates around 2,000 trucks in 42 states, has turned to civil court to attempt to recoup losses from thefts.