AZ BioDiesel is collecting turkey fryer grease and other food byproducts at Gilbert fire stations through the Thanksgiving holiday weekend for conversion into environmentallyfriendly fuel at its local factory.
Managing partner Dan Rees said the drive will be good for both the town and his company.
"Not only are we able to sell more biodiesel, but we'll also help the sewer system," he said. "This time of year, people don't know what to do with their fryer oil so this way we keep it out of the wastewater system."
Rees is expecting most of the fuel to come in from people who deep-fry their Thanksgiving turkeys. It's not that common a practice, but it is one that usually yields about five or six gallons of grease that could play havoc with the town's sewer system if not handled properly.
The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality issued a statement Tuesday alerting residents to the dangers of improper disposal of turkey grease - drain clogs, wastewater blockages and city sewer overflow. It highlights sites in Gilbert, Cave Creek and Tucson where biofuel companies are collecting grease for recycling as fuel.
In Gilbert, the 55-gallon drums being used to collect the grease will be at the fire stations until Dec. 7.
"We're on call to go and suck the liquid up as it comes in," Rees said.
Most biofuel is made from used vegetable oil, but leftover lard can be used as well.
"Anything you deep-fry food in will work, and that does include lard," Rees said. "Lard is considered an animal fat, but it works just fine. And it can turn solid, so you can just drop the solid chunk down into the bucket.
Using biofuel cuts down drastically on carbon-dioxide emissions, Rees said, and it has advantages over other "green" fuels. "They're all food byproducts, so we can stay away from the 'food for fuel' issue," he said.
Gilbert Mayor John Lewis said Monday he hadn't been told about the grease-collection drive, but it "sounds like a very fun thing to do."
He has toured AZ BioDiesel's facility. The company was one of two from Gilbert featured on a brochure about Arizona firms used at a recent solar-energy conference.
"It's a company we're so appreciative to have in Gilbert, and when we heard they wanted to expand we said we made sure we were in contact with them to help them find what they needed," Lewis said.
The company opened a year ago near Cooper and Guadalupe roads, but it is already in the process of expanding. Plans call for moving to a new location at 1980 W. Commerce Road by February, with machinery on order to increase capacity from 500,000 gallons to 10 million gallons.
"The demand has just been amazing; it's all we can do to keep up," Rees said. "We're running things from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m."
He said the Thanksgiving drive is his way of thanking Gilbert for approaching AZ BioDiesel when it was having trouble finding a city to house operations. Gilbert processed its permits quickly so the company could get up and running, Rees said.
Leftover frying oil can be dropped off at AZ BioDiesel's current location, 721 N. Monterey. Reessaid many customers donate oil while stopping by to fill up biofueled vehicles for $2.54 per gallon.
Most of the company's material for the fuel comes from about 100 local restaurants. One of these, Big Earl's Greasy Eats in Cave Creek, has volunteered to be an additional drop-off point for the Thanksgiving turkey grease drive, and Rees said he will update the company's Web site if any more collection sites are added.