- Associated Press - Saturday, November 26, 2016

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - Used cooking grease has long been a problem for residents of Birmingham’s public housing community of Collegeville. It has either gone down the sink, leading to backed up drains or it has been flung out the back door, drawing rodents.

“We’ve told residents what they can’t do. You can’t pour it down the drain, you can’t pour it outside,” said Joseph Bryant, spokesman for the Housing Authority of the District of Birmingham. “But we’ve never given them an option for what they could do.”

Bryant told Al.com (https://bit.ly/2fw34mp ) that the agency is working with Birmingham-based BHT Resources to place three used cooking oil receptacles near trash bins. The company collects the grease and renders the used oil into products that can be used by biofuel or animal feed manufacturers.

If the effort is successful, it could be expanded to some or all of the Housing Authority’s 14 other developments.

“It’s really a win-win situation for everybody, starting with the city,” said David Gilbert of BHT. “Here in Jefferson County, sewer is a big issue, so you’re benefiting the city, you’re benefiting the residents because they have somewhere to put (the grease), you’re benefiting the Birmingham Housing Authority because of the plumbing issues, and of course we get the grease.

“There’s really no downside to it, if it continues to work.”

The system is working well in its first month, said resident council president Michael Carroll.

“We don’t see as much of the drains getting stopped up because people pour it down the sink,” Carroll said. “You can tell them 100 times, but they think because it pours, it’s going all the way down (the drain), not knowing it’s stopping up or clogging down there.”

Elaine Norris, who has lived in Collegeville for about two years, said she has seen a noticeable difference in rodent issues.

“Before we got the container, I would come around here every day and see the sticky traps, the mice traps,” Norris said. Now, she said she doesn’t see any.

Collegeville property manager Leigh Williams said the property has also seen a decrease in the number of complaints about plumbing.

“In the past, we’ve had a lot of rodent issues, plumbing issues,” Williams said. “And with this in place, we’ve seen a dramatic decrease in both.”

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