I am not going to say which city, which restaurant, I don’t want to lose my job. But I want to talk about the current situation of the drainage oil (地沟油). I am working at this sizable restaurant as the head chef, so I know some information about this.
Our restaurant’s waste oil is usually produced in two ways: the used oil after frying many foods and the waste oil from the water after washing dishes and pots.
Used oil is stored in bins, people will pay to collect them, not stored waste oil is dumped into the sewers, and this waste oil is also fished out later. There is a big hotel near my home. Many times at night I saw minivan carrying many barrels, people in the car open up the manhole covers and connect to the hotel kitchen, using a long spoon to pick up the oil floating on the water surface.
To be frank, big restaurants and big hotels are the main places producing drainage oil.
In the city I am in, people already clearly scooped out the big restaurants and hotels’ sewage pathways. Now it was already exposed on CCTV, the relevant departments have been keeping a tight grip, so the cases of fishing sewer waste oil are fewer now, however purchasing used oil is still very common.
Used oil and the floating oil fished up from the sewers are now all called drainage oil. Drainage oil must not be consumed by people. It can only be used as raw materials for producing chemical products. However there is profit in this, the trend is an above average restaurant can produce 100 kg of used oil in a month, each kg sells for over 1 yuan, so the profit is 200-300 yuan a month. Not only this, the people come to fish from the sewers also pay the restaurant; they pay 200-300 a month.
Do not underestimate the sewers, every time they can pick up 10- 20 kg! Therefore, people are in competition for fishing the waste oil. These people must pay the restaurants and hotels money each month. After a deal is formed, hotel security guards only permit these people to fish out waste oil and deny all others. If someone pays a higher price then they will be permitted instead.
In the city where I live, say a medium-sized restaurant produces 100kg a month plus the dumped waste oil being fished out the total drainage oil produced in a month should be around 4,000 kg. Where does it flow to after the drainage oil is collected?
Of course the dinner table!
Now the people who collect drainage oil are not only those workshops that specialize in drainage oil processing, but also including some fast food restaurants. Because drainage oil processing is simple: put it in a huge pot and heat it up, then add some chemicals, the residues and impurities in the waste oil are separated and sink to the bottom of the pot. The upper layer clear oil looks no different than the normal oil if just looking at it. The price for this oil is only 3 yuan per kg, and the normal edible oil costs 9 yuan per kg.
The drainage oil is usually used by fast food restaurants, food stalls, street food stands and including some companies’ in-house cafeterias. Because the cheap price, and it looks clear enough, drainage oil becomes the choice of the evil owners. Actually small food shops’ oil consumption is not small, especially the boiled fish and hotpot etc. using drainage oil saves a lot of money.
However that is not all, medium sized restaurant needs 400kg oil a month, purchasing it from the supermarket can be very costly, so they usually order in bulks to be delivered to them.
There is always loopholes, when each new restaurant opens, there will be grain and oil distributors contacting them. In the end which distributor gets the contract all depends on the price, just like any competition. As for the quality of the oil usually is only determined by human eyes. But the oil delivered in the big white bin does not have any information about the manufacturer, production date and expatriation date. The chefs here do not even know where the oil we use is produced. Say, if the distributor mixes in fake drainage oil, there is really nothing we can do.
We are most afraid of using drainage oil, because if oil producer mixes in water, it would sizzle and making loud noises when heat up. It is easy to determine that, but drainage oil is undetectable.
However the hotels and restaurants have their difficulties too. The profit for selling waste oil each month is not so great; of course profit is still the reason. Also, there are also legitimate factories here specializing in processing waste oil for producing chemical raw materials. These factories come to collect waste oil, not only refuse to pay the restaurant; instead restaurant must pay the factories a fee. Obviously we give something away to them, but still have to pay them? Restaurant manager feels that this is unreasonable. But waste oil must be dealt with, so when people come to pay for them, of course the restaurant is willing. In fact if the legitimate factory comes to collect the waste oil and we don’t have to pay, we would have been willing too.
Among the variety of kitchen supplies oil is the most chaotic and the hardest to regulate. The masses regard food as their heaven, the safety of edible oil is already affecting food industry’s credibility. Everyone should have the mind set of using safe oil, absolutely opposing the evil oil. At the same time issues of recycling waste oil should be addressed so that the evil oil market will decline on its own.