When you think about it, there are many, many places you COULD get waste vegetable oil. Any place that has a kitchen and uses oil will have WVO. The question is how readily available is it and what is the quality?
Think about the restaurants you already go to… what kind of food do they serve, what is the quality of the oil and how often do they change it out? Right there you can probably see that some places like fast food joints may have a different quality than maybe a sit down Thai, Chinese, Indian or burger restaurant. Try mom and pop places. How often do they change the oil? What kind of oil do they use? Where do they store it – outside/inside, covered/uncovered? Asking all of these simple questions will lead you to the best oil.
We have found a local Mexican restaurant, Tamarindo, who is donating their waste veggie oil. Their food is wonderful and this family owned restaurant has been around for 5 years. If you are in the Oakland area look them up… you won’t be disappointed. At the end of your meal you receive a tamarind pod – enjoy eating it – super tasty.
1. Quality – Look at the oil. Does it have a milky white color to it? Is it clear enough to see a reflection in it or is it clouded? If it is milky white or clouded there is probably some water in it – do they keep used oil outside uncovered or inside and covered. Avoiding water is one of the first rules of thumb and something you can tell pretty easily by just looking at the oil BEFORE you haul it away. Stay away from partially hydrogenated oil. Ask if you can see the containers that the oil originally came in. Take oil from the fryer not the griddle. Tamarindo actually uses 2 fryers, one for tortillas and one for meats. We are collecting from the tortilla fryer only and it is 100% corn oil.
2. Relationship – Show up with your ride and let them smell the exhaust and see what you are all about. If you can build a relationship with the restaurant you have done half the work. If they know you, you eat there, and you have explained your process, a restaurant will be much more likely to take you seriously and care about the quality of oil you are getting from them. Remember, some restaurants have to pay to have their oil hauled away so you already have a good chance of scoring oil. But don’t take this fact for granted. Take the time to create a relationship with your restaurant source! If you are sourcing oil on the road just be careful and ask all the right questions. Ask your friends if they know the owners of any local restaurants – you might be surprised to find out they do.
Here are some resources for finding WVO: