News / USA

Soaring Price of Used Grease Attracts Thieves

Grease prices have nearly quadrupled since 2006

Multimedia

Audio

The high price of food and fuel has made a valuable commodity out of an unexpected resource: the price of used vegetable oil from restaurant fryers is so high that people are stealing it.

Just ask grease truck driver Benjamin Dorsey. He picks up used fryer oil for Valley Proteins in Northern Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C.

These days, when Dorsey drives behind a restaurant to empty one of the company's big metal containers for used grease, he’ll often find someone has beat him to it.

Of 15 scheduled stops on a recent morning, four had been hit by thieves.

"If you don't pick up any grease, the company doesn't make any money," Dorsey says. "Other people are taking from you."

Trash to treasure

“If it’s got value, people will steal it," says J.J. Smith, president of Valley Proteins. "And grease has value.”

For about 60 years, Valley Proteins has been turning discarded fats, oils and grese into raw materials for everything from cosmetics to plastics.

Most of it is used as a cheap way to add calories to animal feed. High prices for feed grains have pulled the price of grease up with them.  

Enter biodiesel

But these days, there's a new player in the grease business. With oil prices high, demand has been growing from companies that turn that used grease into biodiesel fuel.

Smith says the extra demand from biofuels is a key reason the price of grease has doubled in the past year, and nearly quadrupled since 2006.

The price of used vegetable oil from restaurant fryers is so high that people are stealing it.
The price of used vegetable oil from restaurant fryers is so high that people are stealing it.

“There’s a finite amount of fat available in the United States," he says. "So, when you only had animal feeders demanding the product, [the market] was much more in balance.”

More demand means higher prices - which means more incentive to steal. Smith suspects, but can't prove, that his competitors are the ones stealing.

“While they’re pumping at their legitimate container on this side of the property line, they might reach over and put the hose in my container, at the next restaurant over, while they’re sitting there," he says.

Dorsey, the grease truck driver, gets suspicious whenever he sees a small tanker truck with a hose. He says some thieves use septic trucks designed to empty portable toilets.

Crime, but little punishment

Valley Proteins says they're losing about 10 percent of their grease supply to theft. But even when thieves are caught in the act, the punishment is usually light, because each individual container is not worth that much.

“By the end of the day, they may have gotten you for grand larceny," he says, "but at the one location you’ve got an eyewitness, it's petty theft.”

Plus, he says, most people - judges included - find it hard to take seriously that someone is stealing what many consider trash. But in these days of high food and fuel prices, one person’s trash is another person’s liquid gold.

You May Like

Photogallery Kyiv: Russian Forces Tightening Grip on East

And new United Nations report documents human rights abuses committed by both sides in conflict More

Locust Swarms Fill Antananarivo Skies

FAO-led control efforts halted plague More

South Africa’s Plan to Move Rhinos May Not Stop Poaching

Experts say international coordination needed to follow the money trail and bring down rhino horn kingpins More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Weeki
X
August 29, 2014 2:18 AM
The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid