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Published October 29, 2011, 12:46 PM

California cracking down on kitchen grease thieves

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — One man's trash is another man's biofuel, which is why state agriculture officials are launching a program to crack down on restaurant grease thieves.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — One man's trash is another man's biofuel, which is why state agriculture officials are launching a program to crack down on restaurant grease thieves.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture said Thursday it is contracting with police to target areas where restaurants leave out used kitchen grease to be picked up by rendering facilities. It can be converted into fuel for diesel cars and trucks.

The high cost of diesel fuel has made something that was once without value a sought-after commodity. A gallon of grease was worth about 6 cents a gallon five years ago but sells for nearly 50 cents a gallon now.

Police around the country are noting that grease thefts are up. The April 2011 issue of Render Magazine reported that Baker Commodities, an LA-area processing plant, suffered $2 million in damages from lost grease and broken equipment in 2010.

“It's a big problem across the country, but California has more restaurants, so there's a bigger loss,” said Tina Caparella, the magazine's editor.

The Food and Agriculture Department regulates grease transport. A spokesman said the agency is using fees paid by rendering companies to fund police overtime in areas hardest hit.

The first crackdown is happening in Southern California. The exact location is being kept secret while the operation is ongoing.

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