Westerly Teens Expand Their Grease Recycling Program

Jan 11, 2014

A local program to help residents recycle their waste cooking oil has added 12 recycling receptacles at transfer stations in southeastern Connecticut. 

A team of 10-year-olds started the program, called Turn Grease Into Fuel (TGIF), in Westerly five years ago to help both their local community and environment. 

The Turn Grease Into Fuel Team.
Credit Courtesy of Cassandra Lin

Fifteen-year-old Cassandra Lin, one of the founders of this student-led community service project, said she was astonished to learn at a young age that families in Westerly were struggling to heat their homes.

“We thought [it would be helpful] if we could convince people to recycle their waste cooking oil and turn that into biodiesel fuel and then use that to heat the homes of those who can’t afford to heat their homes,” said Lin.

Lin and her teammates had learned at an expo at the University of Rhode Island that waste cooking oil could be converted into biodiesel fuel. They were attracted to the idea that recycling cooking grease, which is harmful to sewer systems, also benefited the environment.

“Because biodiesel is a renewable energy, we’re saving greenhouse gases by using it,” said Lin. “For every gallon of petroleum-based diesel you replace with biodiesel, it offsets 20 pounds of CO2 emissions.”

On average, the TGIF program collects 4,500 to 5,000 pounds of waste cooking oil per month. Most of the restaurants in Westerly participate in the TGIF program by donating their old cooking grease to TGIF. A few restaurants around the state, including some in Warwick and Providence, also participate.

Newport Diesel works with TGIF to convert the donated grease from restaurants into biofuel. To date, the program has donated 29,000 gallons of biodiesel fuel to heat the homes of 290 families in Westerly. The program donates BioHeat to the following charities and agencies: WARM Shelter, the  Jonnycake CenterMystic Area Shelter and Hospitality, the Welcome House, the Keep the Heat On program, the Warwick Social Services Department, and the Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center.

The program has set up more than 20 residential recycling receptacles in Rhode Island, southeastern Connecticut, and in Fall River, Massachusetts.

“Our idea is if people went to say the transfer stations just to throw out their trash, they could recycle their grease there as well,” said Lin.

The TGIF program is also responsible for helping pass a law in 2011 that requires restaurants to recycle their cooking oil. The group recently convinced the Westerly School District to run its entire school bus fleet on a blend of biodiesel fuel.

The following locations have Turn Grease Into Fuel receptacles:

Fire stations 4, 5, 6, and 8 in Warwick, RI

Sherman Elementary School in Warwick, RI

Town of Westerly Transfer Station at 39 Larry Hirsch Lane, Westerly, RI

South Kingstown Transfer Station at 163 Rose Hill Road, South Kingstown, RI

Veazie Street Elementary School at 211 Veazie Street, Providence, RI

East Lyme Transfer Station at 93 Roxbury Road, Niantic, CT

Griswold Transfer Station at 1148 Voluntown (Route 138), Griswold, CT

Groton Transfer Station at 685 Flanders Road, Groton, CT

Ledyard Transfer Station at 889 Colonel Ledyard Highway, Ledyard, CT

Montville Transfer Station at 669 Route 163, Oakdale, CT

New London Transfer Station at 63 Lewis St, New London, CT

North Stonington Transfer Station at 215 Wintechog Hill Road, North Stonington, CT

Norwich Transfer Station at 73 Rogers Road, Norwich, CT

Preston Transfer Station at 108 Ross Road, Preston, CT

Sprague Transfer Station at 130 Bushnell Hollow Rd, Baltic, CT

Stonington Transfer Station at 151 Greenhaven Road, Pawcatuck, CT

Waterford Transfer Station at 1000 Hartford Road, Waterford, CT

Fall River City Garage at 10 Lewiston St, Fall River, MA

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