It won't just be the power of suggestion that has you smelling French fries while driving behind Eat'n Park trucks. That's because they'll soon be running on a biodiesel blend made from the oil from the fry vats at their own restaurants.
Biodiesel can be made from many types of oils, fats or greases, which are frequent restaurant wastes. Reusing these inedible wastes, says Jamie Moore, director of food and beverage for the Eat'n Park Hospitality Group, is "completing a loop." The fuel is less polluting and can be less expensive than the skyrocketing expense of petroleum.
The material has to be modified before it's used in an engine to prevent breakdown from the heat of combustion. Often -- like in this case -- biodiesel is blended with regular diesel. This can allow a vehicle to use the fuel without modifications to the machine. Running a truck on straight vegetable oil, on the other hand, means retrofitting the engine.
The Eat'n Park trucks will run on a mix of about 15 percent biodiesel, according to Moore. The trucks, which already run on diesel, won't have to be modified in any way to make this work. This helps keep costs down, and re-uses the grease that the restaurant produces anyway.
He says in the future, perhaps the trucks could bear a message about biodiesel; why it matters, how it happens and why the truck exhaust smells like snacks.
Local biofuels group Steel City Biofuels will be helping make the switch, and will eventually process the spent grease. They'll be providing mostly technical support at first, and infrastructure as their facilities continue being built up. Until Steel City Biofuels takes over, Valley Proteins/Carolina By-Products will handle the actual processing. The fuel from that company will be all local restaurant grease, but when Steel City Biofuels takes over, it will be exclusively Eat'n Park grease.
"The key is linking food and sustainability," says Nathaniel Doyno, cofounder of Steel City Biofuels. "The farm to the fuel tank -- it's an interesting combo: local food, local fuel." Eat'n Park has been in the process of increasing the amount of locally grown and produced food in their restaurants recently, through an initiative called FarmSource.
Doyno lauds such a large company for making a commitment to sustainability, and says Eat'n Park could lead the way for other corporations.
Moore hopes to continue implementing programs that encourage re-use. In the future, he says, he'd like to see university clients compost their food wastes, and then get the compost to local farmers.