How a group of kids kept 402 gallons of grease out of Lexington sewers

Hayden Vance, 9, a student at the Redwood Cooperative School, hauled a jug of grease during the Gobble Grease Toss.
Hayden Vance, 9, a student at the Redwood Cooperative School, hauled a jug of grease during the Gobble Grease Toss. Photo provided

Consider 402 gallons of grease flushed away after Thanksgiving cooking.

Now consider it donated to the University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research for experiments and to Kelley Green Biofuel of Oldham County to make products that can be used in some diesel engines.

The collection effort was part of Lexington’s eighth annual Gobble Grease Toss and Redwood Cooperative School on Crestwood Drive, near Nicholasville Road, volunteered its site for the Nov. 24 city government projec.

School Director Sarah Cummins wanted students to have first-hand experience working on environmental matters that affect local sewer systems as well as land and water quality.

“Environmental sustainability is a big focus of our school and our programs. It was a really great opportunity for us to be involved in a larger community effort.”

Last year the effort collected just under 300 gallons of post-Thanksgiving grease. This year grease donors kept making donations even after the formal effort had ended, adding to the total of more than 400 gallons.

Students from Redwood were able to travel to the energy research lab on Nov. 29 to watch about 380 gallons of grease be loaded for transport to Oldham County, where Christopher Kelley has a plant with a capacity to produce 100,000 gallons of biofuel a year.

The research facility only keeps about 20 pounds of the grease, according to Eduardo Santillan-Jimenez, a principal research scientist, “which we will hold indefinitely because we run everything in the microscale, in very small amounts.”

Researchers are working on a technology to convert such materials into advanced biofuels that would be chemically indistinguishable from petroleum-derived fuels.

“Those fuels would be compatible with existing infrastructure — but that fuel would be coming from a renewable resource,” Santillan-Jimenez said.

The next step, he said, would be research and development on a larger scale, testing in engines for emissions and compatibility.

Cheryl Truman: 859-231-3202, @CherylTruman

To dispose of grease

Cooking oil and grease should never be poured down sinks because they can clog household and city sewer pipes, leading to backups and sewer overflows. Store oil and grease in a sealed container. Cool it in the refrigerator or freezer. Once it’s solid, dispose of it in your green trash cart (aka “Herbie’).