For decades restaurants have thrown away their used cooking grease without a second thought; now, they’re trying to protect it from thieves. Almost anyone can convert the yellow grease into cheap biodiesel using kits sold on the internet, and restaurant oil bins have become go-to destinations for everyone from environmentalists to thieves who siphon tanks in the dead of the night.
The grease is now traded on the commodities market, fetching almost $2.50 a gallon; some restaurants are selling it for extra revenue. “Fryer grease has become gold,” said one restaurateur. “And just over a year ago, I had to pay someone to take it away.” But grease thieves say they’re doing nothing wrong; many restaurants store the grease out by the trash, where it’s fair game.