CATERERS ARE being warned to lock up their used cooking oil (UCO) following a dramatic rise in thefts.
With rising fuel price rises and changes to the tax system a serious “black market” for UCO is opening up, with thieves selling it on to be converted into biodiesel.
According to Agri Energy, which runs the largest UCO to biodiesel plant in the UK, a fifth of all UCO is being stolen. This equates to about £50 million in lost revenue and poses various environmental and safety risks.
“There is a substantial black market around the theft of UCO,” said Gavin Millar, Agri Europe group systems and procedures manager. “This is not a crime without direct harm to people and businesses. The increasing scale of the problem in the UK directly deprives people of job prospects and security. The illegal production of biodiesel can be highly dangerous to human life and to property,” he added.
Millar said that those in the foodservice industry needed to be aware of the value of their UCO and ensure that it is stored safely.
Last month two men were jailed for stealing some 220,000 litres of UCO from supermarkets and KFC restaurants before selling it on to make biodiesel. The men used uniforms, paperwork and identification that was almost identical to official contractors.
“We’ve had people impersonating us [in order to steal the UCO]. A lot of people don’t realise it’s been stolen as they don’t expect someone to steal used cooking oil,” said Suzie Vodros, a sales consultant at Convert2Green, which collects UCO nationwide before converting it into transport fuel.
The likes of Convert2Green and Agri Energy are working closely with their customers to raise awareness of the issue and improve security.
“Businesses need to be aware of the value of their UCO and take the right steps to protect it from thieves,” added Millar.
- Keep your UCO as secure as possible – it’s the first deterrent to thieves
- Make sure you know who collects your UCO, and your staff do too
- Ask for identification from collectors as well as the relevant paperwork (eg a waste transfer note).
- Explain to staff that UCO is not waste but a valuable resource for the business