It is very important to dispose of cooking oil in the proper way as it pollutes water resources by spreading thinly over the water and preventing oxygenation, which also harms marine life.
Although Turkey falls behind European countries in terms of recycling oil wastes, with the efforts of individual volunteer researchers and conservation groups, it seems to be a promising scheme awaiting us in the future, and only requires taking concrete steps towards the implementation of nature-friendly practices.
The latest development in this area is the project for the public use of BAYTOM (Waste Vegetable Oil Collection Machine) by municipalities aiming to collect waste cooking oil and prevent residents from pouring the oil down the sink. BAYTOM was developed by Erol Tonga, a Turkish chemistry teacher from Çorum Anatolian Teacher High School and produced in a small industrial estate in Çorum province. BAYTOM is also preparing to take its place in municipalities in France and England with the Turkish brand. The machine was sent to municipalities of various cities in Turkey following the pilot project in Çorum province and after R&D was completed with the contribution of Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Deputy Chairman and Vegetable Oil Manufacturers Association Chairman Ahmet Edip Uğur.
Turkish Marine Environment Protection Association (Turmepa) General Director M.A. Özkural gave further details on BAYTOM, saying: “BAYTOM is a common product of the Ministry of Environment and Urbanism, the Vegetable Oil Manufacturers’ Association and Lipesa. Many municipalities have started to use BAYTOM, fully developed in Turkey, to collect vegetable waste oil. When waste oils are collected and deposited into the BAYTOM machine, it reads the amount of fat and dispenses a gift to the donor. The machine can distinguish between foreign substances and waste oil and store them in different repositories. Different gifts such as money, discount vouchers and bus tickets can be dispensed by BAYTOM. Waste oils collected in the machine’s storage are then gathered by licensed waste management companies. The use of this system of giving gifts in exchange for oil wastes can encourage people to be careful with the storage and disposal of waste oils.
Highlighting the importance of recycling, Turkish Foundation for Combating Soil Erosion, for Reforestation and the Protection of Natural Habitats (TEMA) Muğla province representative Okyay Tirli states: “Recycling materials such as food, paper, plastic, glass and batteries means billions of dollars saved in our present culture of frenzied consumption. One of the most practical solutions to the threat of global climate change is recycling. Used edible oil can also be recycled into biodiesel fuel by refining, thus environmental damage can be minimized. Just a liter of waste oil can pollute 1 million liters of water, and domestic waste is the reason for 25 percent of water pollution. Additionally, waste oil poured down sinks builds up on the inside of the sewer pipe and hardens, reducing the flow capacity of the pipe and causing blockages, and that means extra expenses and additional energy expenditure. Additionally, the underlying reasons for the increase in the number of jellyfish are waste oil and industrial wastes poured directly into the seas. These dangers are faced frequently, especially at coastal regions which lack refinement facilities. If this issue is not dealt with sensitively, tourism will be affected badly.”
Özkural talks about specific legal regulations concerning waste vegetable oil, saying: “Waste oils are produced in establishments such as homes and hotels, hospitals, restaurants, buffets and food companies. Home waste oils must be collected in individual containers and delivered to waste oil collection companies licensed by local municipalities. However, there is no control over the waste oils produced in homes. On the other hand, institutions have to contract licensed waste oil collection companies and deliver their wastes to these companies. If the oil waste is not collected by authorities, they may be improperly manufactured as soap or mixed in animal feed and find their way into the food chain again. According to a regulation put into effect by the Ministry of Environment and City Planning in 2005, illegal dumping of waste is prohibited and licensed collecting companies have been put in charge of collecting these waste oils by the ministry.”
Özkural also explains what can be done with the collected waste oil. “Collected waste vegetable oils can be used for biodiesel or electric production by licensed companies. A full 65-80 percent of the waste oil can be turned into biodiesel, depending on its polar material ratio. Biodiesel is used by blending with benzoline or diesel fuel and there will be an obligation imposed upon the gas stations to blend fuel with biodiesel in clear ratios by 2014. By using biodiesel, CO2 emissions are decreased by 50 percent and particulate material by 30 percent. With the usage of biodiesel, CO2 and sulfates in exhaust, the main cause of acid rain will disappear. Biodiesel can also be obtained from oil-seeded plants like canola, moonflower and soya, but biodiesel production from waste oil is a more environmental approach in terms of recycling wastes.
Additionally, Özkural cites statistics on waste vegetable oil and biodiesel production from Turkey and around the world. “In Turkey, 1.5 million tons of vegetable oil are being used for nutrition. Approximately 350,000 tons of waste oil originate from that oil and just 36,500 tons, in short, 10 percent of that amount was collected in 2010. However, the amount of waste oil that is collected in the European Union is approximately 700,000-1 million tons per year. That amount is 120,000 tons in Canada. A total of 1.350 million tons of biodiesel is being produced in 40 facilities in the EU countries. Germany, Italy, Austria, France and Sweden are among the major countries that produce biodiesel. There are 1,800 biodiesel selling gas stations in Germany and Austria. Germany, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary are applying a 100 percent tax discount and Austria 95 percent. A full 1.5 million tons of established capacity exists in our country at present. Turkey is the second country in the world after Germany in established biodiesel production capacity. However, 65 percent of our biodiesel investing companies originated from agriculture and 50 percent of these are oil producing factories. Production and usage of biodiesel is being controlled by the Energy Market Regulatory Agency [EPDK].”
On another note, Özkural and Tirli talk about their projects carried out on this subject.
Tirli says: “We are making an example study in Muğla province. Five-liter cans were distributed to homes by the Fethiye Municipality. The EZICI biodiesel company, which was licensed by the Ministry of Environment and also has a contract with municipalities, is collecting waste oil for free from homes [call 444-2845 to arrange this service]. In Muğla, waste oils started to be collected eight yeas ago, and 1,000 tons of waste oil have been collected under our leadership. We are working in coordination with central and provincial municipalities of Muğla. Our objective is to collect 90 percent of the waste vegetable oils and waste packs.”
Özkural asserts: “The Turkish Marine Environment Protection Association is carrying out projects like informing citizens against the damage of waste oils to the environment and also preparing for our project of collecting waste oils in the pilot areas determined by the Samsun Municipality by placing BAYTOMs at various locations.”
There are also many things to be done to combat pollution due to waste vegetable oil and increase the amount of recycling. Özkural lists the necessary steps to be taken: “We think the institutions in charge should take action by collecting waste oils and turning them into a part of the country’s economy. It is important to define simplified methods in using waste oils in vehicles by turning them into biodiesel and it is necessary to develop methods which will provide incentives like tax discounts. It is also necessary to carry out projects to raise awareness by informing the people about the environmental effects of waste oils.”
According to Tirli, one way of protecting the environment is to regulate hotels and restaurants, which use high amounts of vegetable oil. “The Ministry of Environment must provide waste oils to be given to licensed collectors by calculating the loss of the oil by checking the bill to see the amount of oil that enters hotels and restaurants.”