Used cooking oil can land hotels into trouble

Written by
Dr Ayub Macharia

Most people enjoy deep fried bacon, fries and chicken. Most hotels use cooking oil to deep fry food. It is notable that the cooking oil used in hotels to fry these delicacies is a lot. The cooking oil is boiled in a pot and items to be fried dipped in, and once ready removed for serving. The oil can be used severally but when it reaches end of life, it has to be changed.
Have you ever thought of where hotels take the cooking oil no longer in use? It has been noted that most hotels dispose their expired cooking oils to their grey water disposal systems, which finally get into the sewerage system. Hence where they wash the dishes is the same place they dispose the used oil and it flows the same way as domestic water used to clean utensils. Some hotels not connected to the sewer system, dispose the used cooking oil to the environment. So it’s not unusual to find oil on the ground or in our water bodies such as rivers.
Disposing off the waste cooking oil in the environment has adverse environmental impacts. How do you feel when you dip your hand in oil? The oil forms a sticky coating on your skin. Definitely, you have to wash your hands with soap to get the oil out of your skin. What if the same oil floods the body of animals or plants or even on the soil? The oil would form a coat on plants and animals thus interfering with their normal operations. If this happens to birds, they cannot use their feathers freely and hence interfere with their flight. If it happens to aquatic organisms, they suffocate due to lack of oxygen. Our sewerage ponds which depend on aerobic micro-organisms to degrade organic matter are at high risk of being rendered worthless because of suffocation by oil floating on its surface. The cooking oil flooded in the environment destroys food supplies, affects breeding of animals and destroys habitats thus disrupting the ecological system.
Did you know used cooking oil could be recycled? Did you know that we have companies that collect waste cooking oil and recycle? The used cooking oil can be used to make soap ( or biofuels used as fuel for locomotives, for power generation and heating. Biofuels made from recycled cooking oil produce less green house gases as compared to other conventional fuels. The biofuels also do not produce carbon monoxide.
Recycling of used cooking oil pays dividends to many people and institutions. The hotels get a form of revenue when they sell used oil to recyclers. Recycling of cooking oil also ensures that less used oil is being disposed of in drains, which can clog sewage lines and cause environmental degradation.
Disposing used cooking oil to the environment is an offense under the Environmetal Management and Coordination Act (EMCA) Cap 387 and the associated water quality regulations (2006). What are hotel owners expected to do if they are to be regarded as compliant to the EMCA Cap 387. The hotels are expected to procure services of a waste handler licensed by the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) to dispose their waste cooking oil. You can consult NEMA Kenya for a list of these licensed waste handlers.
On each collection of your waste cooking oil, a tracking document should be filled out and copies held by both parties and these should be produced to a NEMA Inspector on request. The tracking document contains information on company details of where the waste is being transferred to; the type of waste being transferred; details of who the waste is being transferred from; date when transfer is done; signatures from both parties.
It is an offence for a hotel not to be in possession of these tracking documents as this would suggest that they discharge used cooking oil into the environment. EMCA Cap 387 provides that those found guilty for not keeping the tracking records risk being imprisoned for not less than one year but not more than four years, or a fine of not less than two million shillings but not more than four million shillings, or both such fine and imprisonment.
If you own a hotel, you have to prove that you dispose your used cooking oil responsibly. Give your used oil to a NEMA licensed waste handler and keep all the tracking documents safely to give to a NEMA Inspector when he/she comes around. This way you can keep away from trouble. Lets all work together towards a clean and healthy environment.


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