News / USA

Soaring Price of Used Grease Attracts Thieves

Grease prices have nearly quadrupled since 2006

Multimedia

Audio
TEXT SIZE - +

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

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

John the XXIII and John Paul II will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square on April 27 More

Thailand Reacts to Plots Targeting Israelis

Authorities hope arrest of two Lebanese suspects will disrupt plot to attack young Israeli tourists More

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

'Once Upon a Forest' takes viewers deep into heart of tropical rainforest 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.
Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Churchi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 22, 2014 4:14 PM
On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Robotic Mission Kicks Up Lunar Dust

A robotic mission to the moon was deliberately crashed onto the lunar surface late last week, but not before scientists had collected data gathered by the spacecraft which was designed to self-destruct. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports on the preliminary findings of the craft, called LADEE - an acronym for Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer.
Video

Video Boko Haram Claims Responsibility for Bombing in Nigerian Capital

The Nigerian militant group known as Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for a bombing in the capital on April 14th that killed 75 people. In the video message, Abubakar Shekau, the man who says he ordered the bombing, says nothing about the mass abduction of more than 100 teenage girls, most of whom are still missing. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Abuja.
Video

Video Ukraine Developments Hang Over Obama Trip to Asia

President Barack Obama's trip to Asia this week comes as concerns over Beijing's territorial ambitions are growing in the region. Those concerns have been compounded by Russia's recent actions in Ukraine and the possibility that Chinese strategists might be looking to Crimea as a model for its territorial disputes with its neighbors. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid