Oil recycling effort kicks off in Kennewick

Tri-Citians now can now recycle their used, food-grade cooking oil.

Tuesday, officials from the city of Kennewick, Waste Management and Baker Commodities showed off the new facility.

Gary Deardorff, the city's utility services manager, recycled the first gallons of used cooking oil at Waste Management's Kennewick Transfer Station off of Ely Street near 27th Avenue.

City officials hope the program will keep used cooking oil out of the city's sewer system, Deardorff said. The oil can cause clogs, which cost money to clean up.

The drop-off area for cooking oil is near Waste Management's entrance off of Ely Street, next to the metal blue recycling containers.

Residents can drop of containers full of 5 gallons or less of used cooking oil at Waste Management.

Waste Management employees later will take the containers, pour the oil into a storage container provided by Baker Commodities and then recycle the containers.

The storage container can hold up to about 400 gallons of cooking oil at a time, Deardorff said. That's about 1,500 pounds.

Only used cooking oil, such as vegetable oil and olive oil, can be recycled, said Chris Espinoza, the city's wastewater supervisor. That's because food-grade oil is a commodity.

Although bacon grease, along with other fats, oils and grease, can't be recycled along with the cooking oil, it still should not be poured down the drain, Espinoza said.

Deardorff said he hopes the facility will attract residents from all of the Tri-Cities to recycle their cooking oil. There is no cost to recycle the oil.

While some small businesses may use the drop-off site, many are already recycling used cooking oil.

Kennewick city Councilman Don Britain said Kennewick is the first of the Tri-Cities to offer such a program. He said the program provides a chance for Kennewick to be a leader in caring for the environment.

Espinoza said the city is seeing positive results from the city's efforts to work with and educate the business community about pretreatment requirements. There have been about 25 percent less fats, oils and greases in lift stations near businesses.

Sylvia Baggerly, a customer relations representative for Baker Commodities Inc., of Grandview, said when Espinoza proposed the program, it was a "no-brainer."

The company already collects used cooking oil from restaurants, she said. The oil is filtered and reused, such as in bird or cattle feed.

Baggerly said she isn't sure what to expect. The first couple months will be telling, and the timing is good since there is a lot of deep frying around Christmas.

"We don't want it going in the garbage and we don't want it going in the drain," Baggerly said.

Waste Management is hoping the program reduces the clean up employees currently have to do when used cooking oil is disposed of in the garbage, said Jeff Wheatley, Waste Management of Kennewick's district manager.

"It's just the right thing to do," he said.

Revenue earned from recycling the oil will go toward Kennewick Kares, a program that helps low-income residents pay their water and sewer bills, Espinoza said. The program is operated for the city by Community Action Connections of Pasco.

-- Kristi Pihl: 582-1512; kpihl@tricityherald.com