How valuable is used cooking oil? Valuable enough to steal.

While many restaurants go through great lengths to protect whats inside the cash register, it looks like there may be something else worth protecting hiding behind the restaurant.

Used cooking oil.

Two stories caught our eye recently. In Paterson, New Jersey, a man was arrested while carrying around 500 gallons of stolen cooking oil in his van. Officers were called about a strange white Chevy van parked behind a local Holmdel shopping center. The man fled the scene, and when the officers stopped him, they discovered almost 500 gallons of used cooking oil in his van. Only around thirty of the gallons came from the theft that morning, and as of this writing it’s unclear where the rest of the oil came from. The man was stealing the oil before the recycling center’s scheduled cooking oil pick up, with plans to sell it to the thriving oil resale market.

In a similar case, Rhode Island brothers Andrew and Bruce Jeremiah, both in their mid-70s, were recently sentenced for conspiring to steal and transport oil from restaurants all across Rhode Island and Massachusetts, and take them to a plant in New Hampshire, where they would be processed to become animal feed and biofuel. A third man, also arrested, provided the Jeremiah brothers with a list of restaurants with large quantities of cooking oil to steal. The conspiracy stretched out for almost two years. Over 200,000 gallons of used cooking was stolen and sold to the New Hampshire plant. The oil was stolen in the middle of the night, between midnight and dawn, before the official companies could pick it up.

Once used cooking grease is filtered, sterilized, and tested, the recycled cooking oil can be used for many things. The oil can be turned into pet and livestock feed, and into industrial lubricants. It can also be turned into biodiesel fuel. Some cities, like Chula Vista, in California, even use the recycled cooking oil gathered from local restaurants for official vehicles. 125 of the city’s official vehicles run on biodiesel, made from recycled cooking oil.

And while the Paterson NJ oil thief is in custody, and the Jeremiah brothers are already serving their sentence, these incidents just go to show you how in-demand used cooking oil is. If you own or manage a restaurant, make sure your restaurant’s used cooking oil is being picked up by the right person, and make sure it’s being recycled.

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