Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Collecting Used Vegetable Oil...

Many of you have asked me how I get the oil that I use to run my vehicles. Well, read on...

Now, keep in mind, you can't just pull up to any restaurant and take what you want. Most restaurants have contracts with renderers (oil collection companies) for exclusive rights to pick up the oil. That's why I avoid the chain restaurants (they are less likely to bend the rules) and focus on the independently-owned eateries (who tend to be friendlier and more interested in helping out the little guy... like me).

But, simply finding the mom and pop shops won't guarantee that you'll get your oil. With used veggie oil being such a commodity these days (what with it being used to make biodiesel, animal feeds, hair products, cosmetics, etc.), simply taking what you need without permission amounts to stealing, as most places have a bin (often provided by the renderer) outside near the trash dumpsters where they dump the oil and the renderer comes to collect it.

But, if you get permission, or make arrangements ahead of time to get the oil before it is dumped into the renderer's container, then you can have whatever the restaurant is willing to give you.

This photo series is from a recent collection visit to a country club in the Southeast (names have been withheld to protect the innocent.) :-)

Getting the oil from the dumpster to the fuel tank:

Obviously the process is easier if I collect the oil in the Land Rover because I can maneuver it closer to the container. But, sometimes I have to collect in BABS (which requires a lot more room).

To get the oil from the dumpster to the tank, I use a pump. Some people use buckets, but many dumpsters now have grates on them, and a bucket just won't fit through those little holes.

I have two types of pumps: one is an electrical pump (from an RV water system!) The other is what's called a "Barrel Pump" and is, essentially, a hand-cranked turbine. Obviously, the electrical pump is easier to use, but requires a power source... in this case, the Land Rover itself. I use the barrel pump when I have to collect oil in the motor home. There is plenty of power to run the electrical pump, but I can't get the motor home close enough to the dumpster, and the hoses simply won't reach.

To use the electrical pump, I connect the pump's electrical wiring to the Defender, connect one hose to the bladder tank in the Defender's bed and another hose to the siphon tube that goes into the oil dumpster. Then I just flick the switch and let it go. I can get up to 85 gallons in the bladder tank.

If I have to use the hand pump, I just pump directly into 5 gallon plastic containers and then dump them into the filter tank on the motor home. It's a lot messier, and definitely tiresome, but using the barrel pump is a lot faster than the electrical pump, so there is a trade-off.

And, whether I'm using the barrel pump or the electrical pump, I always cover the end of the siphon tube with a couple of layers of chiffon fabric. It's strong, lightweight, and the perfect mesh for keeping debris out of my oil.

It's a fairly simple process... I just pump the oil out of the restaurant's container and into mine. And, once I have the oil in the filter tank on my motor home, I turn on the tank heater, warm up the oil, then turn on the centrifuge to spin out the finer particles and the water. After an hour or two (depending how dirty the oil was to begin with), I have clean oil that I can use to run my engine. I transfer the newly cleaned oil into my clean veggie tank, and I'm on my way (well, after I clean up my mess, of course...)

Gettin' Greasy...

In the photos, you can see how dirty and sticky the used oil is. And, it gets everywhere. If you ever want to return to your source for more oil, you definitely have to keep your workspace clean. So, I lay down some cardboard (when I can find it) and always clean up any spills (no matter how small). The best products I've found for cleaning up a veggie oil mess is Clean-Rite's Purple Power and Scott's Shop Towels.

Let the Purple Power sit for a minute, and it will clean oil off of anything. And the Shop Towels are absorbent and tough enough not to fall apart even when wiping grease off of concrete. (And, when I'm done, I put the towels in a jar and use them as fire starters for when I'm camping! How's THAT for recycling?)

As I stated before, it's a messy job. So, if you're a neat freak... forget it. Get your gas at the gas station. But, if you don't mind getting dirty, and want to do your part to lower vehicle emissions... then get greasy!


samiam said...

Great post, thanks for the info. I'm wanting to get started on the whole wvo thing and I'm still trying to figure out where and how I'm gonna get my liquid gold. Your pics and posts are a big help. Thanks

Holt Webb said...

Glad to help, my friend. :-)