A Seattle-based biofuel company has so far collected 1,000 gallons of waste cooking oil from local restaurants and other facilities since it began operating here in September.
General Biodiesel CEO Yale Wong visited Juneau at the end of last week to work with the City and Borough of Juneau on expanding his company’s collection program in the city, as well as establishing a residential waste oil collection program.
After what Wong called “a little slow start,” the company, which collects waste oil from thousands of clients in Washington state, Oregon and Idaho that is then turned into biofuel, has established itself more in Juneau, he said. When it got its start in the city, the company was collecting 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 General Biodiesel representative Felipe Ogoy said in a past Empire report. Now, General Biodiesel collects from 16 companies in town, Wong said, and is looking to expand.
“It’s imperative that we stay here and do a good thing and we’re successful,” he said.
The company offers a free collection service for all Juneau businesses. Ogoy collects the oil from businesses monthly in a General Biodiesel truck, shipped to Juneau about two months ago. As part of the company’s contract with the city, the truck is parked at the hazardous waste facility, 5436 Commercial Blvd., city Solid Waste Coordinator Jim Penor said. The city pays for the waste oil, which will probably amount to 1,000 gallons per month during the busy summer season, to be shipped to Wong’s Seattle plant via Alaska Marine Lines, he said.
The business relationship saves the city money and preserves its waste management system, Penor said. He said he didn’t yet have numbers on how much money the city will save on outsourcing its oil disposal.
“I’m ecstatic about this,” Penor said. “The more we can keep it out of the environment and save the city money by not running it through the waste water treatment plant, that’s great.”
Commercial waste oil can now be disposed of responsibly, he said, and as of 2014 residents will also be able to get rid of waste oil in a sustainable way — no more getting Juneau’s waste water treatment plant “gummed up” with grease poured down the drain.
“When it makes it to the plant, it’s turning into grease balls again,” Penor said. “We want to stop that waste from going to our waste water treatment plant — (it’s) not made to extract grease from the water.”
When the program begins next year, residents will be able to drop off their used cooking oil during the city’s hazardous waste collection events, Penor said. General Biodiesel will provide community education on how to properly dispose of oil, he said.
Penor said the Juneau Economic Development Council and CBJ developed the idea for the partnership with General Biodiesel and presented it to him.
Wong and Ogoy said they’re happy to be easing the pressure on Juneau’s waste management system, and helping the environment by keeping grease out of waterways.
“Somebody’s got to do it, and somebody’s got to do it right,” Wong said.
“Dropping off the first two totes of 1,000 gallons, I thought, ‘That could have been in the landfill,’” Ogoy agreed.
Business owners can contact General Biodiesel at 907-321-4475 to enroll in the company’s free waste oil collection program.
• Contact reporter Katie Moritz at 523-2294 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @katecmoritz.