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Gutter oil debate: Joint efforts can cut profit chain  

2011-11-05 18:05:00|  分类: 环保呐喊 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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Published by China Daily on 31 October, 2011
 
        Recycled cooking oil is proliferating because illegal companies make money at every stage of the process. Two experts have opposing views on a waste-to-energy solution. Here is some of opinions, see others please enter:

Jiang Gaoming
Joint efforts can cut profit chain
 
        A nationwide crackdown on "gutter oil", or recycled cooking oil, is on. To prevent recycled cooking oil from appearing on our dinner tables, some people suggest a waste-to-energy transfer is better than a crackdown by police. But that is easier said than done.
       
        The government first launched a crackdown on "gutter oil" 10 years ago, but the situation, against all expectations, has only deteriorated.
       
         As the cooking oil scandal shows, a strong profit chain has been formed in the illegal oil processing industry: illegal operators collect waste cooking oil from sewages and restaurants and sell it at 4,000 yuan ($629) a ton to underground factories. The illegal factories then process the oil and sell it for 6,000 yuan a ton to middlemen, who then sell it to restaurants for about 8,000 yuan a ton, which is still a lot cheaper than normal cooking oil that cost about 12,000 yuan a ton.
       
         Lured by the huge profits that can be made at every stage of the illegal process, many individuals and enterprises have joined the illegal oil recycling sector. The result: the vicious industry is growing by the day.
       
       Some people suggest that we learn from the practices of developed countries, most of which have established a mechanism for dealing with waste oil. For instance, a law passed in Germany in the 1970s makes it mandatory for all restaurants to sign a contract with the government and keep an accurate record of every drum of kitchen garbage they produce, thus preventing waste cooking oil from returning to the dinner table.
       
         In the US and Japan, it is mandatory for restaurants to sell (or give) garbage containing used cooking oil to only certain collectors so that it can be dealt with in an environmentally friendly way. Japanese collectors even add inedible castor oil to the waste oil they sell to prevent it from being reused as cooking oil. It, still, can be processed as biodiesel that can be used in the garbage trucks, which certainly is a healthy cycle.
       
        Some people advise that we should emulate these examples, and help the biodiesel industry replace the underground factories. They say that because biodiesel is sold at almost the same price as petrochemical products - about 7,500 yuan a ton - the government should offer subsidies to biodiesel producers to keep illegal "gutter oil" collectors at bay.
       
        That may be a piece of good advice but people who advise it forget how much cooking oil waste is produced in China everyday. The general consumption habit in China is to order more food in a restaurant than we can eat and create unnecessary waste, owing to which an amazingly high amount - 2 to 3 million tons - of waste cooking oil is generated every year.
       
        The latest figure I found, shows that in April 2006, Japan's garbage dumps collected less than 1,500 tons of waste cooking oil. Small amounts of subsidy can work in countries like Japan, but China has to provide huge amounts of subsidy - a heavy burden on taxpayers - to just get things going.
       
        Besides, even with government subsidies, it would be difficult for biodiesel producers to fight a price war with illegal oil recycling factories, for there is too big a gap between their profit margins. To raise their sales, underground factories generally sell recycled cooking oil at 8,000 yuan a ton, still about 2,000 to 4,000 yuan less than fresh cooking oil.
       
        Once biodiesel producers enter the market, underground factories can easily raise the collection price by 1,500 yuan a ton to compete with them, something that can debilitate biodiesel producers that rely on government subsidies for survival. So promoting a healthy industry to recycle waste cooking oil for non-edible use may be a good practice in other countries, but not so practical in China.
       
        What we should learn from the countries that have laws or regulations on recycling used cooking oil to pre-empt public health hazards is stricter supervision and detection. Instead of passing laws for collecting of waste cooking oil from restaurants, the government should strengthen supervision over the oil they use to prevent waste cooking oil from returning to the dinner table. That would be more effective and more convenient both.
       
         No less important than detecting waste cooking oil is curtailing over-ordering, given people's consumption habit in China. That would require consumers to change their habits. Every consumer should bear in mind that each morsel or bit of food he/she leaves on the table could be used to reprocess cooking oil - that's why he/she should take away the uneaten food instead of wasting it. Perhaps the government should introduce some measures - fines, for instance - to punish people who waste food.
       
         In other words, the problem of waste cooking oil is deep-rooted in China and can be solved only with the help and efforts of all.
     
  (The author is a researcher from Institute of Botany, the Chinese Academy of Sciences)
 
Gutter oil debate: Joint efforts can cut profit chain - 蒋高明 - 蒋高明的博客
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