One of the most basic things we do when we make Biodiesel is obtain the oil to make it with. Whether it’s new oil from the store for a demo batch or collecting waste oil from several restaurants, it’s something that just has to be done. Unfortunately, it can also be one of the messier parts of making Biodiesel. With that said, below are a few tips that might make it a little easier and hopefully cleaner.
Seven Oil Collection Tips & Tricks
1. Always Test The Oil Before Committing To It
Many times in our rush to find oil, we end up committing to start hauling away oil from restaurants that isn’t really all that great for Biodiesel. It either ends up being sky high in fatty acid (titrates through the roof), is full of fat and garbage, or has lots of contaminants in it like water and soap from the grill.
With that, Tip #1 is to always test a sample of the oil you want to start collecting BEFORE you commit to a restaurant that you’ll take it. Just grab a sample of some of it and either test it on site or haul it home & do the testing there. Things to test for include titration of the oil, identifying water content, and possibly even trying to make a sample batch of Biodiesel.
We carry some really handy sampling vials for grabbing samples of oil with on the go as well as oil go/no go test kits that can make this task much easier.
Sampling & testing the oil will help you make better informed decisions on which oil you keep.
2. Never Steal Oil From A Barrel Behind A Restaurant
This one goes without saying, but it’s an important reminder. If the barrel sitting behind a restaurant with oil in it doesn’t belong to the restaurant, chances are it’s owned by either a rendering company or by someone else collecting the oil for other purposes. Once the oil hits the barrel it becomes the property of the barrel owner. If you take oil from a barrel belonging to someone else, it’s considered theft in many areas. In many states, including Utah, the rendering companies are willing to press charges against anyone caught removing the oil.
3. Label Your Oil Containers Appropriately
If you collect oil from a restaurant, many will want you to provide them with a collection drum. It’s important that your drums be properly labeled so that when they get full or if there’s a problem, the restaurant will know who to call. In many areas, this is actually part of the law.
This can be as simple as stenciling your name & phone number on the drum or you can even get professional labels that allow your drums to stand out.
We recently partnered with Arbor Biofuels to have some custom drum labels made out of heavy duty vinyl that can be placed on a drum to properly identify the oil.
Your name, phone number, and a container ID can be added to the label to ensure everyone that see’s the drum understands that the drum is privately owned and that it should only contain used cooking oil.
4. Identify An Easy Way To Transport The Oil
Once you have your drums in place, it will be important to identify an easy method for getting the oil from the back of the restaurant to your production area. This could be as simple as using a pump to pump the oil into another drum or as sophisticated as purchasing a couple drum dollies and a lift-gate for your vehicle and swapping out full drums with fresh empty ones.
One extremely popular method is to construct a device called a super sucker to transfer the oil with. It can be built from an old propane or air compressor tank and works extremely well. Another method is to get the restaurant to simply place their used oil back in the same containers that they bought it in. This makes for a much cleaner transferring process and takes up much less space.
5. Keep Your Drums & Containers At Restaurants CLEAN!!!
If you’re in an area where you’re competing with others for oil, it’s going to be extremely important that you keep your drums and containers as clean as possible. This not only will help show that you’re serious about what you’re doing, but it also lets the restaurant know that you care about their restaurant and want to help them keep the area as clean as possible.
We’ve had several customers tell us that this one tip has helped them to keep their oil accounts with restaurants because the restaurants were so tired of the other oil collection companies leaving a mess. Who knows, it could just win you a major account! Remember, lots of restaurant owners know each other and word spreads fast when they learn about something new that they like.
6. Never Let Your Oil Collection Drums Get All The Way Full
We learned this tip from a Biodiesel producer in Utah. He said that he never lets his drums get past 3/4 of the way full at the restaurants. His reasons behind this tip are that:
A) It makes the drums easier to transfer (ie. they don’t leak all over the back of his truck because they’re not full),
B) A full drum at a restaurant is an accident waiting to happen, and
C) It gives you some wiggle room in case you can’t make it to a restaurant on your days you pick up.
Also, if you don’t let them get full, it’ll help with keeping the area clean too! We think it’s a great tip and one to follow whenever possible.
7. Be Courteous & Professional With Restaurants
The last thing a restaurant needs is a guy collecting oil that’s not being responsible with them. Remember, we’re all in this together. If your unprofessional with a restaurant, or leave a bad impression, they may tell others out there. When you want to get additional accounts, word may have traveled fast & you may find yourself out of oil. The happier you can make a restaurant and their staff, the better your chance of keeping an oil account.
For several other tips on collecting oil, visit these great resources:
Our “We Collect Oil” page on our website – We print this page out & take it with us when we’re looking for new oil accounts. Because it details what we do and how we do it and also discusses the benefits of allowing us to use their oil, we’ve found it to be an extremely helpful thing to have.
Murphys Machines How To Collect Oil article – This article is jam packed with incredibly useful tips on how to find new oil accounts and keep them. It even includes details on how to work with restaurants to allow them to let you take their oil. We highly recommend it.