Santa Fe Green Living Guide

Check out “Grease Balm,”  Editor Alexa’s interview with us about grease, biodiesel and staying local in Santa Fe.

SFR: Describe your operation.
Ciano: Right now, we have about 35 local restaurants. They donate their grease to us; we collect it; we bring it to the only certified manufacturer in New Mexico. They convert it into biodiesel—which is a quick, low-energy, low-water process—and then we bring that back to Santa Fe and distribute.

SFR: Describe your operation.
Ciano: Right now, we have about 35 local restaurants. They donate their grease to us; we collect it; we bring it to the only certified manufacturer in New Mexico. They convert it into biodiesel—which is a quick, low-energy, low-water process—and then we bring that back to Santa Fe and distribute.

How many consumers are you working with?
Right now, it’s about a dozen. That’s where we’re hoping to really expand by having an access point. We get a lot of calls from people who don’t want the trouble of having a 55-gallon drum in their garage.

How did you get involved in this?
Nobody dreams about collecting used grease—like, it’s kind of a nasty business. My partner was working with the Santa Fe Alliance, doing the Farm to Restaurant program, and he was making all these connections with local restaurants and noticing what needs were out there. And simultaneously, he was taking courses in the sustainability department at [Santa Fe] Community College—and so it just sort of hatched. Pretty soon, there were more people that wanted to donate their oil for biodiesel than he could handle. …We were literally borrowing a truck, borrowing a pump—and then, bit by bit, buying each of those pieces of infrastructure and becoming more passionate about the environmental and health benefits of using biodiesel. It’s really one of those things that seems to be overlooked. It’s this fabulous, local, renewable, clean fuel that’s here now; why isn’t it out there?

Do you think there’s more demand here?
We do. It is possible to get 5-20 percent biodiesel at the Baca Street pump, but it’s not local, and it’s sourced from virgin soybean oil. What we’re offering is actually from our waste stream, up-cycled, and we can offer it at 99.99 percent [biodiesel]. It’s the real deal.

Are you worried about running out of supply?
No. Right now, we figure we’re getting about 25 percent of the city’s grease for biodiesel, and so it’s a matter of continuing to up that.

What types of grease can you use?
Basically anything that’s coming out of our restaurants. The traditional deep fryer—French fries, tempura, sopaipillas—whatever its original source is doesn’t matter, just as long as it is liquid at room temperature.

What happens if places don’t recycle grease?
Often it gets shipped overseas, manufactured into some kind of animal feed, and then shipped back. [Sometimes,] in small-scale operations, it’ll get poured down the drain—which is illegal, but it happens.

The difference is that yours is local.
Exactly: it’s a full-circle, closed-loop system. Everything stays in New Mexico.

Reunity Resources wants your grease! To donate, call 629-0836 or email [email protected].

Santa Fe Reporter Green Living Guide, March 2013