In September 2009, the city of Higashiomi launched a used cooking oil collection service for residents using its municipal "Chokotto" transit buses (chokotto bus means "quick bus ride" in Japanese).
The collected cooking oil is refined and recycled for use as biodiesel fuel (BDF) in the very same buses, which run on 12 routes through the city.
Higashiomi has already drawn attention from all over Japan because of its eco-friendly "Nanohana" project (rapeseed flower project) -- involving a wide range of initiatives to create the infrastructure for a regional society based on resource recycling -- which includes the cultivation of rapeseed, use of rapeseed oil for home cooking, collection of the used cooking oil, and then refining it into fuel.
To carry out the project, the city began cooperating with the local residents' association, gas stations, community councils, and companies. So far, it has collected 32,000 liters of used cooking oil, which represents 32 percent of all household-derived waste cooking oil in the city.
To recover used oil most efficiently, the focus of the bus-collection service is to promote citizen involvement.
For residents, the system works like this: first, they peel off the labels from the empty clear plastic cooking oil bottle and rinse it; next, they fill it with their used cooking oil. Finally, they pass the full bottle to the bus driver when they get on the bus, and in return they receive a Chokotto Bus "Eco-Tomo" (which means "eco-friendly") voucher to use as a fare ticket worth 100 yen (about U.S.$1.1) on their next bus trip.
There are also candles made from used cooking oil and recycled glass.
Waste cooking oil doesn't have to go down the drain; it can be used to make candles, according to the creators of the Filt waste oil candle.
Filt's Tokyo office sits on top of the popular Chubby cafe. Periodically, Filt employees make the trek downstairs and gather used cooking oil, which is filtered, colored, and scented. Even the candle glass comes fom local sources. Every week, the Filt-ers rummage through glass recycling bins to find containers. The result: each Filt candle is completely unique.
The candles, which cost about $20 depending on size, are only available in Japan. But the idea of upcycling waste to create new products is gaining ground aound the world. TerraCycle, a New Jersey-based startup, repurposes waste packaging into everything from messenger bags to cell phone holders.
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