A messy problem with a green solution
China has lots of food waste. It includes massive amounts of waste cooking oil. The oil is often collected illegally and traded unethically, sometimes returning to the restaurants through a shady black market.
Parallel, runs a better-known problem, the greenhouse gas emissions produced by our industry and transport systems.
Chasing these monsters is the everyday mission of many talented entrepreneurs in the country. One of them is Shu Tong.
Living abroad for nine years, in the Netherlands, the Chinese citizen found his calling: To promote biofuel use in China, a relatively new technology that could solve our problems.
Biofuel can run engines with a 90% gas emission reduction. And it works from trucks to airplanes. But to make biofuel, you need organic matter.
“The traditional biofuel is produced from grains… those are food-based fuels,” explains the expert. Now there’s a trend to convert nonfood matter into fuel, from algae to cooking oil. Actually, waste cooking oil has almost a one-to-one conversion rate to biodiesel.
“As a Chinese, I see this waste cooking oil social problem happening all across my home country, but I also see the solution happening in Europe. Why can’t we make it happen in China?”
Mr. Tong returned home and founded MotionECO. A company that offers a legal, ethical and sustainable alternative to waste cooking oil management.
They source the oil from traditional collectors for competitive prices and turn it into biofuel.
MotionECO’s alliance with big names like IKEA and Shell have given the company serious attention, but it’s still a door-to-door business.
Even so, there’s progress. The company created a mobile app to trace the oil from the restaurant to the processing plant, and displays the gas emission savings in an accurate, transparent way.
Big companies are in because of reduced greenhouse emissions; restaurants back the project to protect their brands from being associated with the black market; and the government starts to get interested in the food waste management possibilities.
The future looks bright. Win-win situations are rare. Turning a social problem into a solution to an environmental one is the kind of idea we should all back up, but pioneers always struggle. “We’re surviving,” Mr. Tong laughs out, “we’re constantly growing; also, we see more and more partners.” The future looks bright indeed.
Learn more about MotionECO in this week’s episode of Bottled in China.