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Reproducing used cooking oil into biodiesel

  • Teh Yun Da said that the set up of a biodiesel plant is not complicated. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily
  • The left bottle is filled with filtered and washed oil, which will become the so-called recycled cooking oil after bleaching and deodorising. The middle bottle is filled with oil added with catalyst. The upper level shows biodiesel, the middle level shows impurities while the bottom is gycerin, used as ingredient for skin care products. The right bottle shows refined biodiesel. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily
  • Waste water processor separates oil from waste water. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily
  • Chong Kok Yeng: "The use of biodiesel can be popularised if it is subsidised." Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily
  • Hadijah: "The Penang Consumers Association has not yet received any formal complaints about recycled cooking oil." Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily

Translated by SOONG PHUI JEE
Sin Chew Daily

Recycled cooking oil is harmful to health, but it is not environmental friendly to dump used cooking oil just like that. The best solution is to used it for industrial purposes, namely to reproduce into biodiesel.

Used cooking oil can be reproduced into soap and animal feed. However, the most valuable product would be biodisel.

Companies collecting used cooking oil must first obtain a license from the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB). If they have a letter of support from the local government, they can then obtain the license.

However, a Sin Chew Daily reporter found that some city councils actually issue the letter of support without detailed examination of the companies' backgrounds and how they use the used cooking oil, casting a doubt on whether the transfer of benefits is involved.

The Tunku Syed Razman Environmental Foundation has become a member of the National Biosafety Board (NBB) since March last year. It produces biodiesel based on the American biodiesel standard ASTM6751, as the government has yet finalised the standard for biodiesel and it is currently the world's only type of biodiesel produced by used cooking oil.

Although the government encourages people to be engaged in the green industry, and the B5 biodiesel, consisting 5% of biodiesel and 95% of petrodiesel, is available in the market, the high prices for used cooking oil has caused the industry not easy to survive.

Good quality used cooking oil can also refine glycerin, which can sell a good price. High quality glycerin can be used to produce high priced products, such as skin care products and external use drugs.

A biodiesel company in Permatang Tinggi, Penang also collects used cooking oil to produce biodiesel.

However, the company's representative said that collecting used cooking oil from restaurants and food hawkers would have to face the problem of price competition.

In Penang, the market price of used cooking oil is at least RM2 per kg, considered a high price for the biodiesel company. If the price is too high, the selling price of biodiesel will be incompatible with the government subsidised diesel available in petrol stations.

The company director Teh Yun Da said: "When we once tried to approach a deep-fried banana hawker, he told us that we cannot afford it after hearing the price we offered. He actually sells used cooking oil to others at RM2.10 per kg."

He continued that it is a feasible plan to produce biodiesel from used cooking oil. However, the used cooking oil price problem has led to the insufficiency of raw material.

He said that uncontaminated used cooking oil can produce high quality biodiesel. However, there will be less biodiesel refined from grease removed from grease filter.

He cited an example, if 20kg of used cooking oil is used, 18kg of biodiesel would be produced. However, grease from grease filter can produce only about 40% of biodiesel, as grease from grease filter contains a lot of water and impurities.

Fortunately, some environmentally conscious factories are still willing to sell used cooking oil to them at lower prices. They also receive used cooking oil from some non-governmental organisations. Currently, the company averagely produces 3,000 to 4,000 litres of biodiesel monthly.

"We can produce 3,000 litres of biodiesel per week if we have adequate supply of raw materials," Zheng added.

In addition, biodiesel also has to compete with government subsidised diesel. However, another director of the company Chong Kok Yeng said that they mainly supply biodiesel to factories and coaches, which are not eligible to enjoy subsidised diesel. Therefore, biodiesel is still cheaper for them.

He said that biodiesel is environmental friendly as it can help reduce the emission of black smoke.

He said that some companies also collect low-quality palm oil to produce biodiesel. If the government also subsidises biodiesel, the use of it can then be popularised.

The black sheep among used cooking oil collectors abuse the licence in the name of environmental protection.

The MPOB licensing and registration department official Azizur told the Sin Chew Daily that all applicants must submit a detailed application form.

Applicants must check "collect", "sell", "process" and "export" on the form, and give relevant information about the reselling units, processing plants and exporting countries. The palm sludge collection license will be issued after the application is verified.

In terms of law enforcement, however, the official said that although the MPOB will conduct spot checks, they are conducted occasionally instead of regularly, unless reports or complains are received.

A Sin Chew Daily reporter found that after getting a few letters of support from the city councils in Selangor, a used cooking oil collection company collects used cooking oil from restaurants and hawkers, claiming that it is entrusted by the city councils. However, some officials denied to have issued the letters and thus, there is a possibility that the letters were forged.

According to the investigation results, many city councils in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor have issued the letter of support to several used cooking oil collection companies without conducting an investigation over their backgrounds.

The city councils only listed two conditions on the letters, namely the companies must provide barrels for used cooking oil collection and they are forbidden to collect fees from restaurant and hawker owners. However, the usage of the collected used cooking oil and details on the processing plants are not stated.

How should the palm sludge collection license holders deal with the used cooking oil? It is understood that the MPOB is reviewing the issue and the solution has not been finalised yet.

A Selangor state government official said that the control of used cooking oil falls in the grey area, as it involves the Health Ministry, the Domestic Trade, Cooperative and Consumerism Ministry, the MPOB, the Housing and Local Government Ministry, local government and other government departments.

As for the Selangor state government, he said that strict examination will be imposed before applications for the license are approved, and stern actions will be taken against those who are involved in illegal used cooking oil collection.

He added that the government cannot completely stop the collection of used cooking oil as it can be used in the right path, while there are too much of used cooking oil in the market needed to be recycled, or restaurants and hawkers might just dump them into ditches, resulting in blockage and pollution.

Penang Health, Welfare and Caring Society Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh said that before the Chinese New Year, the Penang government had intercepted a lorry carrying a small tank. The driver and his assistant collected used cooking oil in Penang in the middle of night, and there were many bottles of expired cooking oil on the lorry.

The driver showed the law enforcement officers only a business license registered under palm oil packaging, instead of a palm sludge collection license. In the end, since the company was registered in Kulim, outside the Penang state government's control area, the law enforcement officers could only leave it to the Domestic Trade, Cooperative and Consumerism Ministry's office in Penang, although the officers suspected that they might be involved in selling harmful recycled cooking oil into the market.

According to Penang Consumers Association researcher Hadijah, although the association has heard of the the rumour saying recycled cooking oil is available in the market, they have never received a formal complain so far.

She said that the association was told that some people are selling unbranded cooking oil at night markets in remote rural areas. However, they were not sure whether the oil was recycled cooking oil.

Hadijah said that even if they could get a pack of suspected oil, the association cannot afford a laboratory validation.

According to her knowledge, validating a sample requires RM900 and the test would be done in a national university.

She said that a hawker might reuse the same pot of oil for a few days and it would be a problem for law enforcement officers to verify and take action.

Read also:

Part 1: Recycled cooking oil flooding local market
Part 2: Black box operation


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