Jen's MEM Journey

Waste Not, Want Not
by Jennifer Weiss -- February 24th, 2011

Overcoming my addiction to oil (peanut oil that is).


I have an addiction.  Truth be told, I have a few, but there is one in particular that I can’t (or won’t) give up.   I love fried food.

If it can be fried, I will eat it.  Fried buffalo wings? Bring them on!  Fried eggrolls?  Pass me another.  Fried doughnuts, beignets and other doughy treats?  Yes, yes, yes!  I even ate a whole plate of fried shrimp one evening (and I don’t even like shrimp).

But my absolutely favorite fried food?   FRIED TURKEY.

For those of you that have eaten fried turkey, you know what I am talking about.  For those of you who haven’t, treat yourself next Thanksgiving.  Once you have a mouthful of the moist, flavorful, goodness that is fried turkey, you will never go back to eating a dried out bird that takes hours to cook.

Trust me on this.

But, here’s the thing.  A fried turkey must be …. fried.  And not just fried, but fried in 5 Gallons of peanut oil.  Unfortunately for the environment, once you have fried a turkey there’s not much else that you can do with the oil (except fry more stuff, but it all comes out tasting a bit like turkey).

Since I absolutely cannot bring myself to dump the oil down the drain or in the garbage, every year my husband stacks up the huge 5 gallon containers of used oil in the garage and we wait for some sign from above to tell us what to do with it.

Enter a man named Lyle Estill.   Lyle is a founder of Piedmont Biofuels and, according to his website, is their V.P. of Stuff.  But really he’s the answer to my used oil quandary. Lyle wants my oil!  And the beauty of it is …. he’ll even come pick it up!

Pittsboro-based Piedmont Biofuels collects used cooking oil from local restaurants and turns it into clean burning biodiesel fuel.  This fuel is then distributed to wholesale and retail customers throughout North Carolina to be used in tractors, trucks, school buses and even the cars that we drive to work and school everyday.  What started as a way for him to “recycle” his used turkey fryer oil using blenders in the backyard has grown into a 1,000,000 gallon per year biodiesel production facility.

Lyle came to speak to my Environmental Sustainability class this week and discussed the many ways that his company is taking what we consider “waste” and turning it into fuel.  He uses everything from vegetable oils to sausage waste to (ugh) poultry fat.  According to their website. biodiesel reduces tailpipe particulate matter (PM), hydrocarbon (HC), and carbon monoxide (CO) emissions from most modern engines.  More importantly, it takes a waste product that has previously been dumped into landfills and down drains and makes it into something useful.

Thanks to Lyle,  I can keep my fried food addiction for now (health implications aside) and my husband will have more room in the garage.  Now all I need is for someone to please figure out a way to help me with my chocolate addiction ….

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