Collecting Waste Vegetable Oil (WVO)

How do I find vegetable oil to fuel my car? I choose a restaurant and ask the manager or owner if I can pump some waste vegetable oil from their grease dumpster. Most restaurants have a separate grease dumpster out back next to their garbage dumpster. After they question me and give me funny looks,  they usually agree. I try to patronize the restaurant after collecting oil.

I also use to connect with fellow "greaser" across the US who are willing to share WVO.

* No, I don't go to McDonald's and fill up. Japanese, Chinese, Indian, and Thai restaurants usually have "cleaner" grease, and it is usually non-hydrogenated; both better for a vegi car.

I will be sharing my collection stories and posting pictures of it on this page.

First collection at Double Happiness fine Chinese restaurant in Wilmington. Thanks to Mandy and Allen (restaurant co-owner) for their help! We pumped and filtered 7 cubies (approx. 35 gallons).


Second collection just outside of New Orleans on 90W at a restaurant called  Happy Garden II. For about 5 miles before and 20 miles after New Orleans, I ran on diesel because I didn't have any more WVO. I needed to fill up my cubies with vegetable oil, so we stopped at this Chinese/American restaurant. It was really easy actually, I walked in, told the young lady that I run my car on waste vegetable oil, and asked her if I could take a little bit out vegetable oil from their dumpster. She said yes right away without asking questions, so I told her I'd be out back for the next half hour to be sure she understood me. She said ok. Short and simple. Here are some pictures. There were 2 large "things" floating in the grease bin...I thought/convinced myself they were chicken wings, but really, they were inflated dead rats. They were toward the back of the dumpster, so I just sucked the oil from the front. I filled up all 7 cubies, then filled up my tank with about 3 cubies. I was re-filling those 3 when the rats started moving closer and closer, so I only re-filled 1.5 cubies and then it wasn't worth the nausea anymore. This WVO was actually a little bit cleaner than the oil from Double Happiness - I didn't have to wipe clean the filter in the wand, and it appeared to have much less water.
(notice the rats)

Third collection in Austin, TX from Michel and Aaron, a connection I found using the Fill Up 4 Free website. I did not have any luck with the restaurants in Austin, as there are many people driving on WVO already collecting from restaurants, and the restaurants I did talk to were adamant about their contracts with collection companies. So, I re-contacted the people I had e-mailed before I left in Austin. Michel and Aaron collect hundreds of gallons of WVO from restaurants and filter and sell it from their home. They sell the filtered WVO for about $1.75/gallon, depending on demand and probably other factors. I was able to barter a bit with fresh vegetables from the farm where I was working. I filled up my tank 3 cubies for $27. Pretty good deal. I also got 2 loaves of bread out of the deal, and an invitation to an Austin backyard BBQ. All worth the $27!

Fourth collection in Las Vegas, New Mexico at Little Moon Chinese Restaurant. God (or Dog, (inside joke)) Bless Chinese Restaurants! The veg dumpster wasn't very full, and there was water settled on the bottom, so I didn't pump/filter too much oil, just enough to fill the tank to get me to Taos.

Fifth collection in Denver, Colorado at Chinese Restaurant. It was a night time collection and I didn't get very much because my pump was losing power and it was taking too long and making me pretty frustrated. I ended up with almost 3 cubies though.

Sixth collection in Moab, Utah. Pump is working better and I pumped 4 1/2 gallons out of Dan's vegetable oil tank in the back of his pickup truck. I met him at the hostel in Moab and he gave me some since I didn't find any good oil from the restaurants in town.

* I had to run on diesel part of the way from Moab to Las Vegas (major f*&#@! windstorm) and Vegas to the coast.

Seventh collection in Santa Barbara, CA - unsuccessful. The woman at the Thai restaurant said I could take the grease, so Nick and I went back there and started to pump, and I splattered veg oil all over the front of Nick and the front of my car. Then the pump wouldn't work. We tried the pump again in San Luis Obispo and it still wasn't really working. We were able to get 1 cubie full, but then the oil stopped coming out. I have to do some more troubleshooting on this pump. However, we did find a full cubie of unused vegetable oil in an alley in SLO. SCORE!

Eighth collection in Willits, CA - Jeff, Alex and I hit every restaurant in Willits and collected somewhere around 30 gallons of oil. We split this so I filled up my tank with clean veg and had a little left in the trunk. My pump still isn't working; I think either the oil I'm trying to pump is too cold or the 12 volt pump is just running out of juice. I'm going to be looking for a manual hand/crank pump in Oregon.

Ninth collection in Corvallis, OR - Bought filtered WVO at EniroFuels for around $1/gallon. Awesome small company that does conversions and sells oil. I couldn't collect on my own for free in Corvallis because I still don't have a pump and anyway "all the oil in Corvallis is claimed" according to a local greaser. OK.

Tenth collection in Grants Pass, OR - Anna and I took a trip from the farm to Grants Pass with my new manual pump ($17 from Harbor Freight hardware store in Portland) to collect oil. It took us 2 hours and 11 restaurants before we hit gold at Taqueria Mexico. Then it took us 2 hours to pump about 30 gallons with the crank pump through a sock filter hanging in a cubie. We got pretty dirty and sweaty but it was worth it!

Eleventh collection in Elko, NV - Golden for sure. I got an e-mail a month or so ago from a nice man that found my website and offered free WVO if I was passing through Elko. So, I met up with him and he filled me up to my capacity with fish fried oil. Amazing. He filled my empty tank and gave me 7 clean cubies full of good grease. I am so grateful! Thanks Dennis :)

Twelfth collection in Breckenridge, CO - Bought 20 gallons of filtered WVO from Kara who has a collection business up in the mountains and is in the process of starting a shuttle services with autos that run on veg. I met him through Dan in Moab. It was $1.25/gallon. My reasoning for buying oil this time instead of filtering was that I had a time frame to get to Chicago and had many, many miles ahead of me.

Thirteenth collection in Iowa City, IA - This collection was amazing. Mika told me about a place she had got oil before with some friends, a Japanese restaurant downtown. I scoped out the dumpster first, then ran in and asked permission. The man was more than willing to let me take it. I went back in to the alley and set up shop. Mind you this is a Friday night in a college town. There are drunk people everywhere. And I'm pumping oil directly next to a gay bar that is having some kind of drag contest. Pretty entertaining 1/2 hour to say the least. I set up my video camera on top of my car to catch passer-byes. I had a few people stop and ask me what I was doing. The grease took a bit to filter through the sock filter, so I figured since it was late and I didn't want to be in this alley for hours, I would just pump it directly in to the cubies and worry about filtering it later. So I did that, and it turned out that the grease was suuuuper clean! It was really dark, no water, and just a few particles in it. And, it was still warm grease! So it must've just been emptied in the dumpster. I think I filled up 6 or so cubies, so now I had enough clean grease to get me back to Ohio! Schwing!

Fourteenth, and final, collection outside of Chicago, IL - I didn't really need anymore oil; I had enough from Iowa City, but I had a couple of students with me that were filming for a class project. We went to 3 restaurants before finding the winner. The grease was OK; under normal traveling scenarios I probably wouldn't have collected it...too thick. But, we just needed some footage, and the restaurant said yes, so I filled up 1 cubie for the film. This will turn out to be 3/4 cubie of usable grease. Still pretty good.