A few years ago, restaurants couldn’t GIVE the stuff away… literally. But now that people have figured out how to turn used, dirty, old cooking grease into clean-burning biodiesel, what used to be waste is now a hot commodity… so hot that thieves are starting to snatch up the used grease.
In March, grease bandits in South Bend, Ind., broke bin locks to get to their oozy booty. One collector, Griffin Industries Inc., has two detectives working cases in Kentucky, Texas, Florida, Missouri, and against an entire grease gang in northern Arkansas.
Grease is a traded commodity like gold or pork bellies, and its price has tripled in the past two years – leading to increased theft. The reason: Grease can be used to make bio-diesel and has seen the same price spike as corn and other biofuel inputs.
“We monitor grease theft on a regular basis. Right now it’s a big issue,” says Christopher Griffin, director of legal affairs for Griffin Industries Inc. in Cold Spring, Ky. The company collects raw grease in 20 states and boils and filters it into “yellow grease,” which is what is used to make biodiesel.
Yellow grease is becoming liquid gold. It now trades on US commodities markets for 32 cents per pound, up from a low of 12 cents in 2006, according to data from The Jacobsen website.
“People who were not in the industry in 2006 are seeing this is a moneymaker,” says Mr. Griffin. The trouble for these grease greenhorns, he says, is that there’s no free grease anymore – it’s all under contract. “So those people, if they can’t get the volume of grease they want, then they will just steal it.”
The story goes on to say that police departments, which used to think the grease theft reports were just jokes, now take them seriously. And the problem has gotten so bad there’s a lawyer out there who specializes in defending these grease thieves. Now there’s a greasy shyster if ever there was one!