Environmentalists alert to ‘money going down Portuguese drains’

Environmental association Zero claims €28 million is literally going down Portuguese drains every year – not in actual cash, but in reusable cooking oil.

Denouncing the “almost criminal” situation, Zero’s Rui Berkemeier blames it on a collection system that “doesn’t work”, lazy councils that don’t provide enough oil recycling points, and rogue businesses which don’t own up to the amounts of oil they use.

It’s not a matter of needing any kind of new laws, he stressed, more a question of ensuring compliance with existing ones.

“Checks have to be made on restaurants to see what they are doing with oil that isn’t collected”, he explained.

Zero’s focus is the 35 thousand tons of used oil which it says are regularly flushed down the country’s sinks, whether in private houses or restaurants/ businesses.

Of the total, 15,000 tons relates to domestic use, the rest to restaurants/ commercial premises.

But Zero doubts the total tally, saying it is likely to be much more.

And the big problem is the lack of ‘drop-off points’ for used oil – services that local councils should be providing by law.

Indeed, 23 councils don’t even supply data, let alone the right number of recycling points.

The consequences are that clean-up costs in local ETARs (water treatment plants) are around 25% higher than they would be without all the oil going down the country’s drains, and endless blocked pipes everywhere as discarded oil acts much like fat in a body overloaded with cholesterol.

Solution? Other than authorities rigorously applying the law, the situation is likely to persist – with the loss in terms of recycling into biodiesel approaching the incredible figure of €28 million.

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