- Associated Press - Monday, May 5, 2014

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) - In an AP Member Exchange story shared May 2 by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the newspaper erroneously reported the capacity of a biodiesel plant that opened last year in Norco, Louisiana. It has an annual capacity of 142 million gallons of fuel, not a daily capacity of that amount.

A corrected version of the story is below:

For recyclers and thieves, grease is the word

Growing demand makes used cooking grease a hot commodity for recyclers, thieves

This is an AP Member Exchange shared by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram

By BARRY SHLACHTER

Fort Worth Star-Telegram

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) - In darkened alleyways, a slimy cat-and-mouse game is playing out in Texas and across America.

Men in trucks are fighting over a dirty and sometimes foul-smelling substance that restaurants once paid to get hauled off. Now it can be worth thousands per truckload. Liquid gold, some in the trade call it.

It’s grease - used kitchen cooking oil from deep fryers at KFC and the seasoned saucepans of the fanciest French restaurant.

The increasingly consolidated industry, ranging from mom-and-pop operations to publicly traded giants, is marked by cutthroat competition to claim restaurant accounts. And all of them have to grab their grease before a ragtag swarm of thieves gets there first.

“This one is pretty clean,” Clay Carrillo-Miranda of Haltom City’s Best Grease Service said on his second-to-last stop of the day when he pumped out thick gunk from a container behind the J&J; Oyster Bar in Fort Worth. “Some stink so bad you want to throw up. When it’s 105 degrees, this job isn’t a lot of fun, so that’s when I go out at night.”

And after sundown is when the thieves usually strike - and fast.

“You can pull in and drive off in five minutes. It can be $500 a night, $2,500 a week,” said Carrillo-Miranda, 37, a beefy man in a black T-shirt and jean shorts. “Even if your truck gets impounded, that’s $500. You’re still ahead $2,000 for the week.”

A 15-year veteran of the oil-recycling business, he spends several nights a month on stakeouts behind restaurants that contract with his employer. He has lost count of the locks he’s replaced because of thieves with bolt cutters. His boss, Brian Smith, says a Burleson man was caught using firefighters’ extrication tools to break into tanks.

Story Continues →