Biofuel company to recycle Juneau's waste oil

The city teamed with a Seattle-based firm to keep used cooking oil out of landfills

General Biodiesel founder Yale Wong spends a lot of his free time in Juneau. He comes here to fish at least once a quarter, he said. And the more time he spent here, the more he realized both the city and his Seattle-based biodiesel company could benefit from having a presence in Alaska’s capital city, he said.

General Biodiesel began collecting used cooking oil from several businesses around Juneau three weeks ago, the first Alaska city to work with the company. The firm collects oil from thousands of clients throughout Washington state, Oregon and Idaho, Wong said. It then turns the waste into environmentally friendly biodiesel vehicle fuel.

“Alaska’s a really green state so I want to start preserving that,” Wong said. “Juneau is a great place to start.”

General Biodiesel is working directly with the city of Juneau, Wong said. The relationship is mutually beneficial: The company gets to turn waste into fuel, and the city gets to keep harmful oil out of its landfill, he said.

This method of managing waste will save the city about $500,000 per year, Juneau Economic Development Council spokeswoman Marie Franklin said. JEDC hooked up the biofuel company with the city, which was interested in finding a more sustainable way to dispose of used cooking oil, she said.

“We actively look for opportunities for new businesses in Juneau,” she said. “We got the city involved, and they took it from there.”

So far, General Biodiesel has collected used oil from six Juneau locations: McDonald’s, Lemon Creek Correctional Center, Bartlett Regional Hospital, Juneau International Airport, Super Bear Supermarket and the Rookery, local company representative Felipe Ogoy said. He’s responsible for picking up the waste around Juneau. Having worked in the restaurant business, he said recycling used oil is the most environmentally responsible way to dispose of it.

In the past, he “pretty much had to freeze the oil so it doesn’t stink up before you take it to the dump,” Ogoy said. “The biodiesel we make is good for the environment.”

The service is also easy on businesses’ bottom lines: Waste pickup is totally free. Any business owner who wants to participate in the program can contact General Biodiesel at 206-932-1600.

Rookery server Madeleine Larson said the cafe’s relationship with the company has been smooth sailings so far. Rookery management decided to try the service because it wanted to dispose of the business’ used oil more responsibly, she said. With a new fryer in the Rookery’s kitchen, “it adds up pretty quick,” server Rya Kirby said.

Since he started three weeks ago, Ogoy has collected about 200 gallons of oil from the participating locations. It’s then handed over to the city and shipped to General Biodiesel in Seattle for processing. He expects more businesses will start using the service.

“If it takes off, it will create green jobs,” Ogoy said.

Wong said his long term goal is to sell his company’s biodiesel in Juneau. He’s also looking into collecting fish waste from commercial fishermen to be processed into fish oil.

“I’m doing a double-green company where I’m collecting waste oil and creating green fuel,” he said. “We collect locally and then we can sell back locally.”

• Contact reporter Katie Moritz at 523-2294 or at katherine.moritz@juneauempire.com. Follow her on Twitter @katecmoritz.

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