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

Nigeria Incumbent in Tight Spot as Poll Nears

Muhammadu Buhari is running a strong challenge to Goodluck Jonathan, amid a faltering economy and Boko Haram security worries More

Video Liberia's Almost-Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo tells VOA that despite her fame, life is still a struggle as she waits for government's promise of support to arrive More

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

At least seven different indigenous groups in Ratanakiri depend mainly on forest products for their survival, say they face loss of their land, traditional way of life 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More