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Greasing it to Greece

Sep 9, 2008
A group of British grease (the oily kind not the 1950's hit musical) lovers recently pulled off an eco-rally from London to Athens which entailed cars travelling the distance powered entirely on waste vegetable oil. The teams collected their second-hand fuel from restaurants and cafes along the route and got along surprisingly well considering the unconventional method of power! The aim of the 2,500 mile rally was to inspire people to make use of used vegetable oils by fuelling vehicles, preventing them from being discarded into landfill sights and the sea. Unlike ethanol and other controversial biofuels, recycled cooking fat does not effect food production.

Andy Pag, the 34-year-old Londoner who organised the rally is no stranger to carbon neutral travelling; in 2007 he drove from London to Timbuktu in a lorry powered by diesel made from cocoa butter produced by a chocolate factory in the UK. He is very proud of the events innovation, "I think we can safely say that this is the first long-distance car journey in Europe that has relied on restaurants and burger bars as an informal network of filling stations." He was surprised by the interest his journey created, as people began to follow the rally, gathering to watch the fuelling process.

The trip lasted eleven days and the eight teams got through an estimated 350 litres of cooking oil. Some of the vehicles - ranging from a brand new Renault to a pretty ancient former taxi - had already been converted to run on vegetable oil; however the drivers of the unconverted cars had to brew biodiesel using a portable 'fuel pod' processor. This was a 2,500lb (1,134kg) machine which was transported in a transit van, and apparently is "as easy as a washing machine to use," it was manufactured in the UK and costs around 500, including a pump.

"We used what is known as an oily bits centrifuge system, the world's first mobile purification system for cars, to filter the waste en route," said Pag's co-driver, secondary school teacher Esther Obiri-Darko. "It gets rid of all the crud."

Pag attended an awards ceremony highlighting alternatives to fossil fuels at the British embassy in Athens and spoke of the rally, "It's true we spent a lot of time fat-finding, knocking on the doors of restaurants begging for their waste, but it worked. And the beauty, of course, is that when such supplies are collected straight from a restaurant and used as fuel they have a zero-carbon footprint,"

Whilst the trip was an amazing experience the group was determined to show that there are other ways to get fuel other than using fossil fuels which are not only dwindling but also polluting the environment. "I think we made quite a lot of converts along the way," said Pag. "There's a whole trail out there of restaurant owners who are now looking at their waste products with different eyes. Our hope is that others will start to realise the energy that is in waste, too."
About the Author
Hannah Walker is a writer for www.ecoswitch.com
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