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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, June 18, 2001

Grease is a word for new fuel

By Dan Nakaso
Advertiser Staff Writer

The stench of old french fries and chicken fat have long ago been processed out, leaving Young Laundry & Drycleaning with a cheaper source of fuel to clean O'ahu's shirts and dresses.

Young Laundry owner Mike Drace says the processed grease, shown in the bottle he's holding, helps save money and the environment.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

Since May 1, Young Laundry has cleaned 300,000 pieces of clothing in Kalihi Kai with power derived from cooking oil sucked out of restaurants and hotels and converted into fuel to run Young's huge boiler.

The other day, Young's 165 workers washed, pressed and dried the 7,000 uniforms, aloha shirts and dresses that pour into the main plant each day — all with the steam generated by the fuel of old cooking grease.

Young Laundry is the latest — and perhaps most well known — of a handful of O'ahu companies to discover that old cooking oil can have a second life as a cheaper boiler fuel.

Mike Drace, president and owner of Young Laundry, likes the idea that the former, smelly goo known as "yellow grease" doesn't always have to be shipped to the Mainland to be used as animal feed.

"There aren't too many opportunities to save the environment and save money at the same time," Drace said over the drone of washers, dryers and pressing machines. "I own the company, and I don't like to see anything wasted."

He especially likes the fact that he saves $800 a week by using the converted yellow grease to replace diesel fuel.

Young Laundry buys its new fuel from Island Commodities Corp., which uses it as a substitute for diesel fuel at its own Campbell Industrial Park plant.

"It's not like what you put in your (diesel) car," said Island Commodities' plant manager, Gordon Lum. "It's heavier. But it's good for boilers."

Young Laundry workers can now clean garments with steam generated from old cooking oil.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

Pacific Biodiesel on Maui has been supplying a different engine fuel made out of old cooking grease to boat operations on Maui and Kaua'i and for Maui county trucks and equipment. The company also provides an O'ahu paving company with boiler fuel and runs its own boiler on Sand Island with a combination of raw and converted grease.

Tom Harrowby, operations manager for Pacific Biodiesel, hopes a new market will open up in Hawai'i for boiler fuel made out of old cooking grease.

"It's good for everybody if we use alternative energy," he said. "But it's a new product and a lot of people are slow to change."

Young Laundry didn't need to do anything to its boiler to accept the recycled grease instead of diesel fuel.

After a test run showed no difference in performance but big cost savings, Drace signed a three-year contract.

The savings, he said, exactly cover a recent rate hike in his company's medical plan.

Drace now gets 2,000 gallons of the converted grease each week. The fuel comes nowhere close to the clothes. But it's relatively harmless anyway, Drace said.

He took a whiff and compared the smell to old cooking oil.

"It's not objectionable, and it's actually edible," Drace said. "Although I don't think I'd want to eat it."

Dan Nakaso can be reached at 525-8085 or dnakaso@honoluluadvertiser.com.