TENRIKYO DINING SERVICE CENTER: Used Cooking Oil Powers Delivery Vans to Cut Emissions and Costs

These days, some of the Dining Service Center’s delivery vans leave a whiff of tempura on their way to deliver meals to followers dormitories, schools, and other facilities. The center recently began to recycle used cooking oil to power five of its vans–as well as a truck and a piece of heavy equipment–which now run on 100-percent biodiesel as part of its efforts to both implement Oyasama’s teaching of putting “leftovers” to good use and be more environment-friendly.

Not only do the vehicles running on the biodiesel help the Dining Service Center reduce its waste, but they also curb carbon emissions by using no fossil fuel. Also, because their bio fuel is made from wholly recycled material and not from a food source, this initiative avoids concerns about competition with food production, concerns that have arisen with other biodiesel feedstocks. In addition, unlike mineral (i.e., standard) diesel, the biodiesel emits no sulphur oxides (SOx)–hence almost none of that offending, black smoke often associated with diesel engines.

The Dining Service Center produces about 1,500 liters of used cooking oil a month on average, and its fleet of diesel-powered vehicles and heavy machinery use 1,500 to 2,000 liters of fuel a month.

In late March, the center bought equipment for converting used cooking oil into biodiesel and in April began tests on delivery vans.

The five-stage process of conversion takes six hours, and the maximum amount that can be converted at a time is 100 liters. “Although care needs to be taken with temperature and time control, conversion is not such a difficult procedure,” says Mr. Sekinori Okamoto, who operates the equipment.

But how are those cooking oil-powered vans really doing? “The vehicles don’t seem to have any problem with the bio fuel, whose power does not at all suffer by comparison with standard diesel,” says a staff member of the Vehicle Maintenance Team.

More than 95 percent of used cooking oil can be converted into biodiesel, the rest being made into detergents. Thus, the center’s cooking oil is 100 percent recycled.

“We used to pay a waste disposal company to collect our used cooking oil,” says Cooking Section Chief Yuji Tagawa. “We then thought, ‘If we recycle our cooking oil, we can not only implement Oyasama’s teaching of giving new life to leftovers but also, possibly, cut costs.'”

The center’s other efforts toward environmental sustainability include having cardboard boxes, bottles, and cans recycled by specialized companies. Kitchen waste goes to Tenri High School’s agriculture and horticulture department, as well as Tenrikyo Property Management Department, to be composted. Also, paper towels are now recycled, rather than sent to the incinerator.

As a result of these and other recycling efforts, the costs associated with the center’s waste disposal have come down to less than a fifth of what they used to be, according to the center.

“Although our primary duty is obviously to provide healthy, safe, and tasty food for followers and others who return to Jiba, at the same time we mustn’t forget what Oyasama’s Divine Model teaches us about the sense of gratitude for gifts from God,” says Mr. Tagawa. “We will continue our efforts to find more ways to reduce waste.”

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