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Selling Used Fryer Oil Isn’t a Profitable Side Business for Restaurants Anymore

Thanks to plummeting crude oil prices, the demand for biodiesel fuel is waning.

Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

The days of restaurants making a few extra bucks by hawking their used fryer oil may be over. Crude oil prices have plummeted since mid-2014, and biodiesel fuel — which can be produced from used vegetable oil and other fats — is no longer an attractively priced alternative to petroleum-based fuel, reports the Financial Times.

The rise in popularity of biodiesel fuel "turned a waste product into a sought-after commodity when crude prices were high, even attracting the attention of thieves armed with bolt cutters and vacuum hoses," FT notes. But production at biodiesel refineries is now exceeding demand, and the value of used fryer oil has plummeted — from 36 cents a pound in 2013 to less than 20 cents a pound now— and restaurants are back to paying to have their used fryer oil disposed of rather than profiting off of it.

But for big chains that go through millions of gallons of oil a year, it sounds like there's still money to be made in biodiesel: A rep for KFC and Taco Bell parent company Yum Brands says it still has contractors who pay to pick up its restaurants' used oil. Perhaps not all is lost, though: An Australian whisky brand favored by the likes of Rene Redzepi burns used fryer oil to heat its stills.

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