Tanking up diesel vehicles with food waste
Chicken fat from in-store rotisseries is being converted to biodiesel
Move over ama glug-glug, hello ama cluck-cluck
Imagine being greeted by the smell of a rotisserie chicken when you start your car in the morning.
And not just any rotisserie chicken — the Woolworths one which achieved iconic status when government banned supermarkets from selling prepared food in the third week of the Covid-19 lockdown, sparking an outcry from its devotees.
That heady aroma is what a few Jeffreys Bay residents experience because in their tanks is biodiesel made from the fat that drips off those chickens while they cook.
Having committed to halving its food loss and waste by 2030, Woolworths was looking for a way to repurpose the up to 20,000 litres of chicken fat which its in-store chicken ovens across the country collectively produce every month. They found it five years ago in a “mom and pop” biodiesel venture based in laid-back J-Bay in the Eastern Cape.
DID YOU KNOW? The Sandton, Rosebank and Durban CBD branches of Woolworths sell the most rotisserie chickens
At the time, Winthur and Zelda Nell were working their day jobs and after hours turning the used cooking oil they’d collected from local businesses into biodiesel. They were distributing about 2,000l of it a month in 2l and 5l bottles.
Today JBay Biofuels has a national network of agents collecting chicken fat in 20l drums from 385 Woolies’ stores nationwide. They collect between 16,000l and 21,000l of it every month. Each store produces on average eight of the 20l buckets of chicken fat a month.
Star performers are the Sandton, Rosebank and Durban CBD branches which sell the most rotisserie chickens.
The biodiesel, suitable for diesel vehicles, comprises 70% chicken fat and 30% vegetable fat and is sold for about R2 per litre cheaper than regular diesel at the Nell’s premises.
“All the locals know exactly where the biofuel comes from,” Nell said.
“The smell of the fuel is unmistakable.”
That’s not the end of the chicken fat waste story.
The glycerol which is a by-product of the biodiesel production process is sold to local farmers as a feed supplement, and the rest gets made into industrial cleaning products “with no caustic ingredients”.
“Everything coming in bad goes out good,” Nell said.
Sounds like a perfect slogan for September 29, designated by the UN General Assembly as the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste.
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