The Tempe Grease Cooperative: Today’s Waste, Tomorrow’s Energy
“Restaurant sustainability” typically translates into using local produce, recycling plastic waste and aluminum cans, monitoring water use, and composting food scraps. But what can be done to sustainably recycle restaurant grease? Leftover oil from fryers can be collected and easily recycled into biodiesel. Less well known are the fats, oils, and grease (FOG) that come from washing dirty dishes and pans, which collect in a device known as a trap or interceptor. While FOG has energy generation potential, it is usually considered a nuisance to many restaurants, and unfortunately is also a common cause of blockages, odors, and backups from the city’s sewer. The City of Tempe created the Tempe Grease Cooperative (TGC) to help restaurants sustainably manage their FOG and comply with related requirements in a cost-efficient way. Restaurant members of this program are directly benefitting their own plumbing infrastructure by utilizing TGC resources to pump at the correct frequency, maintain device integrity, and keep sewer lines clear of FOG.
So far, 200 of Tempe’s restaurants have joined the cooperative. In the last year alone, the bulk purchasing discounts achieved through the TGC have saved participating restaurants over $92,000 in service costs compared to standard market pricing. Used fryer oil collected in 2017 for biodiesel production provided an additional $16,000 in credit back to participating restaurants. Additionally, FOG is more than just a waste; it is an energy-rich substance that can be captured and used to produce biogas. Tempe is exploring these resource recovery opportunities to bring even more benefits to the city, residents, and businesses. Through the TGC, member restaurants promote a healthier, cleaner city with reduced odors and sewer backups. Tomorrow’s energy begins with your restaurant’s waste today. For more information, visit www.tempe.gov/grease or call (480) 350-2678.