Ugh—used vegetable oil. Sticky, gloppy grease.

Cleaning up and disposing of grease and used fats is a messy, smelly undertaking—and with approximately 11 billion liters of waste vegetable oil produced in the US annually, it isn’t exactly a small job, either.

Conventional grease recyclers take used restaurant oil and sell it to rendering companies, which recycle it into cosmetics, soaps, fertilizers and animal feed.

However, waste vegetable oil can also be converted into biodiesel, a biodegradable, nontoxic and clean-burning fuel that can be used in diesel engines. (Simple vegetable oil, or SVO, can also be used, but requires a special engine.) Many restaurants recycle their used cooking oil this way, including El Gastronomo Vagabundo, who we profiled earlier this year.

You can find a waste vegetable oil company that specializes in biodiesel, or, if you’re feeling particularly do-it-yourselfy, you can convert your oil yourself. Some companies even manufacture co-generation systems that allow you to use your waste vegetable oil to heat your water and generate electricity.

Whatever route you decide to take, just remember that there’s a lot more to vegetable oil than thousands of french fries!

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