Circular economy

Exhaust plant oils: 62 thousand tons collected in 2015

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CONOE report: 85% was transformed into biodiesel, avoiding the production of 152 thousand tons of CO2.

From frying oil to biodiesel in just a step: over 62 thousand tons of exhaust plant oils were collected in 2015, an increase by 44% compared to 2010. 85% of these oils were regenerated with the production of biofuels. This is the data emerging from the first assessment of the environmental and economic impact of CONOE, the national consortium in charge of collecting and treating exhaust oils and fats of plant and animal origin. The report was drafted by the Sustainable Development Foundation.

Over the years, CONOE has gradually increased its collection capacity, going from 15 thousand tons in 2002 to over 62 thousand tons in 2015: this figure equals to 22% of the total to be disposed of, that is 280 thousand tons. 85% of the exhaust plant oil is regenerated for the production of biodiesel, a non-toxic and fully biodegradable fuel of plant origin that can be used as vehicle fuel alone or mixed with fossil fuels: this allows to reduce the emission of carbon dioxide produced by the transport sector. In 2015 alone, 53 thousand tons of regenerated exhaust plant oils allowed the production of 49 tons of CONOE biodiesel: this means a saving of €17 million in Italy’s energy bill. The carbon footprint and water footprint generated by the amount of oil processed and transformed into biodiesel by CONOE in 2015 were considerably low: the process allowed to avoid the production of 152 thousand tons of CO2 and save 63 thousand cubic metres of water. The remaining 15% of plant oil collected in Italy was used as source of renewable energy in cogeneration plants, or as biolubricants, cosmetics, industrial soaps, inks, and waxes.

This recovery method promotes the development of the circular economy and prevents hazardous impacts on health and on the environment. As an example, 1 kg of exhaust plant oil can pollute a water body up to 1,000 sq m large, because it blocks the oxygenation of the water, threatening the life of the underwater flora and fauna. If exhaust oil is disposed of in the urban sewage system, as it often happens with oils of domestic use, it damages the sewage network and obstructs ducts and depurators. The depuration of water polluted with this kind of oil costs on average about €1.10 per kg.

Over the last five years, the economic value generated by CONOE’s recycling chain was on average always higher than €30 million per year, with beneficial consequences for the economy and for the employment market. The report of the Sustainable Development Foundation, in effect, calculated that if all exhaust plant oils generated in Italy every year were processed by CONOE to produce biodiesel, Italy would save 790 thousand tons of CO2 and 282 thousand cubic metres of water per year. Based on the current average cost of oil, Italy could also save €75 million per year on imported oil.

Download the CONOE report

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