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Chicago university cooks up green recycling scheme

posted 18 Nov 2012, 07:45 by Mpelembe   [ updated 18 Nov 2012, 07:46 ]

Loyola University in Chicago is taking sustainability to a new level. The school is converting all of the waste cooking oil produced in their cafeteria kitchens to biodiesel that powers their shuttle bus fleet and soap products that keep the school and students clean. Ben Gruber reports.

Innovations - The cooks at this Loyola University cafeteria kitchen are frying up some chicken. And after all the cooking is done - the used oil is drained and taken on a short trip to the University's biodiesel lab where lab manager Zach Waickman starts the process of converting it into fuel.

Waickman recalls when he and other other students began discussing ways to make their school greener.


"We can make biodiesel from waste cooking oil. We got cooking oil in cafeterias from all of the deep fryers. Why not take that oil and make biodiesel? It's a cleaner fuel and put it in our shuttle buses."

Today, all of the shuttle buses at the school run on biodiesel and Aaron Durnbaugh, Director of Sustainability at Loyola, says the school has plans to expand their operation.


"We are going to go into a new facility next year which will give us ten times the capacity that we have now."

And with that expansion Waickman and Durnbaugh have plans to expand their product line as well. Glycerine, a main ingredient in cleaning solutions and soaps, is a natural by-product of biodiesel production.


"We are hoping to produce all of the soap that we use on the campus. We think probably that in the first couple of years we will go up to about 30,000-40,000 gallons of biodiesel. And the soap we are going to put through buildings and see how people like it and how they use it. We have had really good uptake, we sell it now at different markets and things but really making it sort of institutional that your washing your hands with your waste oil."

Zach Waickman says the benefits of recycling used cooking oil as opposed to importing fuel are far-reaching.


"If I have to bring in another gallon of diesel I have got to suck that out of the ground somewhere in the Middle East. I've got to transport it across the ocean, refine that, get it to Chicago and then put it in my vehicle. Burn it and I've got emissions going into the atmosphere. So if I've got biodiesel, I'm growing soybeans right here in the fields ofIllinois. I'm crushing that and I'm using that oil once for cooking. After I have already used it for cooking then I am going to turn it into a fuel. I am going to use that fuel and I am going to have emission go up into the atmosphere. But everything is happening right here in Illinois."

And by keeping their fuel production local, Waickman says damaging gas emissions are greatly reduced, a significant step along the road to a greener future.