Unlocking value from used cooking oils

CC BY-NC Paul Bailey / Flickr

Brocklesby Unlocking value from used cooking oils

Brocklesby Ltd. work closely with major UK retailers and food manufacturers to process their used cooking oil into products primarily for use in the biofuels industry. Brocklesby look to extract more value from oil waste streams than traditional waste management options.

Originally focused on the collection of oils and fats from restaurants, Brocklesby Ltd. moved into the industrial sector by starting to work with food manufacturers and retailers.

The company deals with vegetable oils and animal fats, operating across a very wide spectrum in terms of scale – from “individual 10-gram butter portions we get from manufacturers, all the way to 25-tonne tanker load of high-quality oil we get from crisps manufacturers”, says Robert Brocklesby, CEO of the family-owned business.

Brocklesby’s food waste processing plant takes about 300 tonnes a week, and doubles as an R&D facility to explore new techniques.

Historically, waste oils used to be cleansed and turned into a product for the animal feed sector, but changing legislation meant that focusing the efforts on the biofuels industry proved more suited, and the company is constantly looking ahead. “We started working with James Clark and the Green Chemistry group at the University of York 4 years ago, to try and move up the value chain, to find better uses for some of the waste streams we were dealing with and which, apart from composting or biogas, did not have a real outlet.” As Robert explains, anaerobic digestion certainly has a part to play in the waste sector, but it’s not the panacea and neglecting the value potential of certain molecules by going straight to energy generation seemed like a missed opportunity.

Drums of recovered oils © Robert Brocklesby
Drums of recovered oils © Robert Brocklesby

We need to extract more value, so we can generate more profit and invest in new technology

“We’ve recently set up a joint venture with a biofuel company, and opened a chemical plant set up to take low-grade oils and fats which historically did not have enough value to be used and would just be discarded.” This approach, says Robert Brocklesby, is a way to remain ahead of the competition and commercially astute, and has many positive outcomes – yet in order for it to be generalised, a shift in state of mind is needed. “The waste industry is still a little blinkered and tends to rely exclusively on one solution, AD for example.” The other potential barrier is the question of access to that waste stream, which poses the question of dedicated and reliable supply chains: “That is absolutely key, and it seems that industries continue to miss out on that point.”

More information can be found on the Brocklesby website.