Biodiesel co-op launches in New Zealand to recycle cooking oil as fuel

The Kapiti Biodiesel Co-op hopes its small-scale model can be replicated elsewhere

A group of friends are forming a biodiesel co-op in Kapiti, New Zealand, to reduce waste and lower their greenhouse gas emissions by 86%.

The co-op will collect cooking oil from local businesses and restaurants so they can filter and process it into a fuel that can be used in any diesel engine without modification. It uses biodiesel processor BioPro190 technology to convert the oil.

One of the key figures behind the project is Matt Lamason, founder and director of the People’s Coffee in Kapiti, who wanted a sustainable solution for the problem of waste cooking oil in his business.

“The idea came from visiting a small farmer in Australia who was making biodiesel in his backyard,” he said.

“I thought, we can do that – and here in NZ, we eat a lot of fried fish and chips. So the waste oil was a factor in seeing the gap in the market for a local, small-scale fuel project that has the potential to reproduce around NZ and maybe in the Pacific islands where fossil diesel is at very high prices.”

While not a co-op, his coffee shop sources Fairtrade coffee from co-operatives in Ethiopia, Rwanda, Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Colombia and Peru. 

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“I wanted to experiment with starting a co-op and how it feels to begin a business that starts with a different premise,” he said. “The model suits members – members collect waste cooking oil and deliver to the co-op and all benefit from processing and buying a cheaper, lower carbon fuel.”

The members of the co-op will provide the equity capital but are also looking to raise money via crowdfunding to buy a mini-tanker to transport the fuel.

Ramsey Margolis, who advises co-op start-ups, has helped shape the co-op structure of the business. He is currently assisting Kapiti with governance, member engagement and education.

He says: “Unlike most investor-owned start-ups the co-op is not looking to scale up, rather they’re wanting to inspire – and help – other small, consumer-owned biodiesel co-operatives to get off the ground.

The first biodiesel will be going to the co-op’s members in January 2018. The co-op currently has six members and has set a target of $5,500 in the crowdfunding campaign.

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