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How to Get Paid for Used Cooking Oil

Restaurants get paid for used cooking oil (UCO) by allowing UCO collectors to pick up and recycle used cooking oil to be made into biodiesel fuel. But if your oil is contaminated, your UCO company may refuse to pay you for it. Avoid the UCO handling and storage mistakes described below to ensure that you get paid top dollar for your UCO at every pick up.

Standards for UCO to Biodiesel

When restaurants don’t get paid for their used cooking oil, it’s because their UCO collector also can’t get paid for it either. Used cooking oil has to meet certain purity standards if it is to be transformed into biodiesel or renewable biodiesel fuel. Typically, that means that MIU (moisture, impurities and unsaponifiables) must be less than 2% and FFA (free fatty acids) less than 10%. If it doesn’t meet these purity standards, the UCO collector can’t recycle it. If the company can’t recycle the oil, it instead spends time and money disposing of it properly.

Contamination of Used Cooking Oil

One might think that if the UCO is 70% oil and 30% water then the UCO collector would simply pay 70% of the expected payment. However, that is not the case. Water can actually alter the oil itself, rendering the whole batch unusable.

If the UCO is full of water, burned foodstuffs, motor oil or other contaminants the UCO processor is faced with additional costs, time and labor to ensure the UCO he transports to the biodiesel plant meets the required standards. The UCO collector must remove the water, the foodstuffs, the motor oil etc and then pay to store and transport these waste products for proper disposal.  If the UCO is badly contaminated, most UCO collectors won’t pay anything for it.

How does Used Cooking Oil become contaminated?

Surprisingly, there are a number of ways UCO can become contaminated and, thus, worthless. Keep an eye out for these common culprits that could be costing you your UCO rebate.

Grease Trap Contaminants

The most common way for UCO to become contaminated is for a restaurant to empty the grease trap into the UCO collection tank. Grease traps contain foodstuffs, sauces, and lots of water. Dumping the contaminants from the grease trap into the UCO container is a major cause of contamination. Once the oil itself is poured out of the trap, the foodstuff should be put in the garbage. 

Soap and Water From Fryer Cleaning

Cleaning a fryer with soap and water means emptying the soap and water into a caddy or bucket below the fryer. If that soap and water is then emptied into the UCO collection container then that UCO has been contaminated. 

Motor Oil Dumping

Motor oil is difficult and expensive to get rid of. Most merchants have to pay to get rid of their used motor oil. Some unscrupulous players will dump motor oil into the UCO container. This ruins the UCO. Securing your used cooking oil tanks does more than protect your oil from would-be thieves, it can help prevent contamination like this.

Overcooking/Overuse of Cooking Oil

When food is overcooked or cooking oil is used longer than its lifespan, solid contaminants (burned food) collect in the bottom of the fryer.  If these solid foodstuffs, which are repeatedly burned, are not filtered from the UCO, they contaminate the oil, reducing its value.

Strange Contaminants

In one recent case, a parking lot behind a group of restaurants was being repaved. The asphalt paver decided to dump water, gasoline and asphalt remnants into the UCO container. Not only was the UCO worthless, but the massive cleanup required–power washing, jetting and dumping–was an expensive undertaking.

Top dollar paid for used cooking oil

In order to get paid for used cooking oil and get paid well the UCO must be of reasonable quality when picked up. Procedures for grease trap dumping, fryer cleaning and regular changes of cooking oil insure a restaurant get paid for their used cooking oil.

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