Smyrna began converting cooking oil into biodiesel for its truck fleet last year. A city-operated 1,200-square foot biodiesel plant was paid for by a $208,000 grant from the $3.2 billion Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program, under the umbrella of the U.S. Department of Energy.
The city’s F-450 and F-550 pickup trucks, used by the water and sewer departments and for trash pickup, did not need retrofitting beyond a $10 fuel filter to use the biodiesel.
The program saves about $1.20 per gallon on the cost of diesel, which was about $3.80 Sunday. The city can make a gallon of fuel from cooking oil for about $2.
Still, the program hinges on donations of cooking oil.
“That’s the only thing holding our program back. We need donations of cooking oil,” said Ann Kirk, director of Keep Smyrna Beautiful.
Donations are accepted at all Smyrna fire departments, the city’s public works headquarters and recycling centers. No solidified grease is taken.
Kirk says it’s an environmentally friendly practice that helps keep cooking oil out of drains.
“It doesn’t pollute the air,” Kirk said. “It makes the engines run longer and cleaner because it doesn’t have the same chemicals in it that petro-diesel does.”
Since the program began a year ago, Smyrna has secured commercial accounts with some metro Atlanta companies, including Emory Adventist Hospital and IBM, which donate oil.
“It’s coming along slowly. We’re picking up these accounts,” Kirk said. “The public is getting the word out and the collections are starting to grow.”
Mayor Max Bacon wants more residents to get involved.
“I think anything where you depend on someone else to provide a product like grease and stuff like that, I think sometimes we probably would like to sometimes have more,” Bacon said.