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Richmond are the first UK council to replace standard diesel with 100 per cent recycled cooking oil
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Councils using chip fat as fuel and road filler

Amy Dickson

5th November, 2009

Richmond council has become the first in the country to run its entire vehicle fleet on 100 per cent recycled biodiesel, while Lincolnshire is using the stuff to patch roads

At first sight, 'environmentally-friendly' and 'kebab shop' may not seem like two concepts that belong particularly close together.

But in Richmond the two are being combined into an emissions-cutting superpower as the council moves to run their vehicles on recycled cooking oil sourced from local restaurants.

The 200-strong fleet, including waste collection vehicles and trucks, is making the straight switch from diesel to 100 per cent biofuel following a decision made during a Council meeting in September.

To cut waiting times for the oil, and the Borough's carbon footprint even more, councillors have agreed a deal with two London-based suppliers - Uptown Oils and reserve supplier Proper Oils - to provide the required 750,000 litres of recycled fuel a year.

The move is set to save the Council around £60,000 per annum at current diesel prices, and is expected to cut its CO2 emissions by an impressive 1,170 tonnes a year.

At the forefront

David Trigg, Richmond Council’s Cabinet Member for Traffic, Transport and Parking, said: 'We have put the environment at the heart of our operations for the past three years and the chance to cut our emissions this much could not be passed by and is something we are very proud of having done. We are committed to a cleaner, healthier atmosphere and this is a big step in the right direction.'

Aside from being a smart environmental move, using locally-sourced biofuels is also more cost effective.
'The contract the Council has negotiated will see our fuel costs drop and the higher the price of standard forecourt diesel gets, the more money we will save,' Trigg explains. 'The decision is a win-win situation: in a recession particularly we have a duty to make the best use of our finances, and keeping this much money for other services is also important.'

Will others follow?

Local authorities watch each other closely, so you might expect others to be keen to follow Richmond's lead.

But when the Ecologist contacted a number of councils in England, none could provide exact details of their current biofuel use. Some councils use a blend of biodiesel and regular diesel, but the ratio is rarely above 30 per cent biodiesel.

Yet the hurdles involved in reaching a 100 per cent biodiesel blend do not seem particularly high.

'We carried out a trial in 2007 to find out how easy it would be to transfer every vehicle we have to running on 100 per cent biofuel,' said Trigg. 'The results proved there would no issues in changing; vehicles do not even need to be adapted.'

Innovation elsewhere

Richmond Council may be the only one using 100 per cent recycled cooking fat to fuel their vehicles, but Lincolnshire council has announced plans for a new scheme to fill the roads with chip fat.

Instead of the usual, oil-derived bitumen, chip fat will be used to bind together Tarmac and fix holes. The technique will be trialled in the county and could then be used across the country if proved successful.

The method's developer, Helen Bailey of the engineering company Aggregate Industries, won the Fiona and Nicholas Hawley Excellence in Environmental Engineering Award from the Worshipful Company of Engineers for pioneering the idea.

Bailey said the use of chip fat to replace some of the 1.25 million tonnes of bitumen used every year would have environmental and economic benefits.

'Bitumen is expensive and uses up valuable crude oil supplies,' she pointed out.

A spokesperson for Aggregate Industries said: 'We had a successful road trial last week which took place in Bedfordshire. Materials will be laboratory tested and reported in due course; the section of the road will also be monitored.'

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