Shanghai regulates treatment of waste oil

Updated: 2011-11-19 08:34

By Wang Hongyi (China Daily)

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SHANGHAI - The next week will see specific plans and measures drawn up to put into effect a regulation to prevent the illegal use and collection of restaurants' waste oil, says the Shanghai food safety office.

The regulation requires restaurants to install machines that separate oil and grease before those substances enter the city's sewer system, thus making it impossible to re-collect them from that source. The regulation requires restaurants to install the machines by the end of 2012.

The new requirement was officially released this past month following 15 days of opinion polling in the city. It marks the city's latest attempt at curbing the use of "gutter oil," or reprocessed kitchen oil that is illegally recycled and then used in restaurant's cooking.

"It's a tremendous task, one that will have several departments working together," said a commission official who declined to give his name. "We will have a further discussion next week and then make a specific plan about putting the regulation into effect."

He said the food-and-drug supervision administration, the public security bureau and other departments will work together to enforce the new rules.

About 40,000 restaurants operate in Shanghai. According to Chinese media reports, about 100 tons of waste-cooking oil are produced in the city each day, and less than a third of that is sent to be properly processed.

"Kitchen-waste oil contains a large number of toxic and carcinogenic substances, such as aflatoxin," said Feng Xiao, deputy general manager of Shanghai Fucheng Environment Protection Engineering Company. "Gutter oil is difficult to test, which poses great difficulties to the supervision and related departments.

"But these separator machines will stop up the loophole where it begins, preventing oil from being reused in kitchens."

Wastewater cleaned by the machines will not produce secondary water pollution, said Hua Yuanqi, engineer from the Shanghai Yuantou Environmental Technology Company. And waste oil and grease collected through that process can be used to make biodiesel, he said.

But Yuan said it is still expensive to convert waste oil into biodiesel.

As for the machines, many companies are now producing them. Even so, small-catering businesses often still find them to be unaffordable.

"These devices cost from 20,000 yuan ($3,120) to 40,000 yuan, which is cheap enough and beneficial to large hotels and restaurants," said Jin Peihua, deputy secretary-general of the Shanghai Restaurants Association. But some smaller restaurants cannot afford the high price."

So far, several well-rated hotels and high-end restaurants in the city have installed the devices.

Jin called on the government to give small restaurants subsidies to help them meet the requirement.