Start-up in China turns gutter oil into green fuels, tackling problem of reuse by eateries

MotionEco's Liu Shutong (right) collecting used oil. Mr Liu hopes to stop the illegal practice of filtering waste oil from restaurant fryers, sewer drains, grease traps and other sources, then selling it on to be reused. The toxic oil has been blamed for making people sick and causing some forms of cancer. PHOTO: CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

BEIJING (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A start-up in China is trying to tackle the unscrupulous use of gutter oil for human consumption with an initiative that reuses waste oil in a responsible manner.

The company, MotionEco, has launched an initiative in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, in June to collect waste cooking oil and gutter oil to be converted into sustainable, low-carbon green fuel for use in diesel vehicles.

It is one of China's first commercial efforts to collect and process used cooking oil and gutter oil by using a completely open and transparent tracking system to ensure that they are never processed back into food products for human use.

The problem of gutter oil has long plagued China.

Although illegal, some unscrupulous people still filter waste oil from restaurant fryers, sewer drains, grease traps and other sources, then sell it on to be reused.

The toxic oil has been blamed for making people sick and causing some forms of cancer. But people continue to use it because it is cheaper than buying real cooking oil.

China is the world's biggest consumer of cooking oil. It also generates millions of metric tons of waste oil every year.

Mr Liu Shutong founded MotionEco three years ago with the aim of solving the problem of gutter oil by turning the waste into clean-burning biofuel suitable for road, marine and air transportation use.

In conjunction with oil company Shell's "Make the future" campaign in China, MotionEco is working to create a distribution channel for the steady production and consumption of gutter oil-sourced biofuels nationwide. The distribution model is called the Sustainable Oil Alliance.

Green fuel, entirely produced by waste products, not only eliminates waste cooking oil from the food chain, but it also provides a high-energy, high-quality transportation fuel that, when burned, is responsible for 90 per cent less carbon dioxide emissions than the same amount of traditional diesel fuel.

"We want to convert every city into a green oilfield, to collect and convert the local waste oil into green fuel, supply it to the local logistics fleet, to keep the food safe and at the same time contribute to the environment," Mr Liu said.

MotionEco said it aims to provide 50,000 litres of green fuel to Nanjing this year.

Shell is collaborating with MotionEco to help explore how to simultaneously tackle the challenges of food safety, waste cooking oil and sustainable transportation in a Chinese city.

MotionEco hopes that by linking waste cooking oil collectors with biodiesel producers, it will encourage transportation companies to switch to the eco-friendly fuel.

"One of the aims of the company is to try to provide solutions... to try to solve the social and environmental issues caused by the reuse of waste oil," Mr Liu said.

"What we are trying to do is create a market for renewable diesel made from used cooking oil that can be used in transportation, public services and logistic - anywhere that conventional diesel is used," he said.

"In that way, we break the cycle of cooking oil reuse in kitchens to provide clean, sustainable low-carbon fuels to power diesel engines."

Mr Liu said that the project will be commercially viable once the company establishes "a chain of collecting used oil, converting the oil, and then to selling it to customers in the transportation sector".

By starting in Nanjing, the company aims to "step up from here to achieve a cleaner and more sustainable way of energy consumption in China by converting gutter oil that might go to restaurants' kitchens into biofuel that can be used in the transportation sector", said Mr Liu.

With headquarters in Shanghai, MotionEco is China's leading proponent and market knowledge centre for waste restaurant oil and green fuels such as waste-based biodiesel and hydro-treated vegetable oil.

The company has said it is building "bridges between producers of green fuel and diesel users that wish to clean up their transportation services and supply chains, helping to provide energy and climate security for China and the world".

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.