Filed by Steve Ritter
There hasn’t been a day on our Brazil trip that I haven’t been amazed by the talent and warm-heartedness of our Brazilian hosts. As Erika related in a post the other day (Beyond Biowillie), during our tour of Brazil, we have been whisked around São Paulo state in a fleet of biodiesel cars that are part of a test program run by Miguel J. Dabdoub and his group at the University of São Paulo, Ribeirão Preto. We have been living the experiment, so to speak.
Erika and I have ended up riding most of the time with Daniel A. Bortoleto and Vinicius D. Sellani, shown above with their car (Sellani left, Bortoleto right). We enjoyed polite conversation with these two unassuming graduate students during our excursions. One day, Vinicius turned around from the front seat and asked if we knew about their cooking oil recycling program. I figured they must do what a number of college students in the U.S. do and collect some used cooking oil from a local restaurant to make biodiesel to run their own cars. But it turned out there is a little more to the story.
Bortoleto and Sellani, working with fellow students Márcia A. Rampin and Cássio P. da Silva, run a program called “Biodiesel Em Casa E Nas Escolas,” which translates to “Biodiesel At Home And At School.” It’s an educational venture led by Bortoleto that started about 18 months ago to teach environmental awareness and the value of biodiesel to elementary through high school students. Dabdoub is proud of his students for this effort, he told me, because they came up with the idea on their own and turned it into a reality.
There are several components to the program. The graduate students visit schools to educate teachers and students. In the photo below, Sellani addresses one class (photos courtesy of Daniel Bortoleto). They provide a pamphlet explaining the program for students to take home to their parents. To add a little fun, they created the character Bill Bio as a mascot, shown at the end of this post in a flyer they distribute to the public.
The key element of their program is collecting used cooking oil. Students are encouraged to bring in used oil to school rather than letting their parents pour it down the drain or out on the ground, which is harmful to the environment. As a reward, the students get to take home 1 L of new cooking oil for every 4 L of oil they bring to school. And students who bring in lots of oil win prizes. Some students with their teacher are shown below.
So far, the program has reached 25,000 students in the Ribeirão Preto region, Bortoleto says. The graduate students also collect used cooking oil from school cafeterias and local restaurants, including 11 McDonald’s locations. The recycling program is supported by several companies, such as the Carrefour supermarket chain and a local Coca-Cola distributor.
Bortoleto and Sellani help collect 20,000 L of used oil per month. They convert it into biodiesel that is blended with petroleum-derived diesel and used to power the collecting van (shown below in front of a school).
They also use the biodiesel for other vehicles in the lab’s fleet. The biodiesel contains some impurities, so it’s not used in the test cars we rode around in. Those cars need to run on diesel made from virgin oil because of precision emissions testing the lab is doing. But the Coca-Cola distributor uses a 5% biodiesel blend (B5) in 145 delivery trucks, and the campus buses run on a 30% biodiesel blend (B30).
The program is just another example of the ingenuity of Brazilians in promoting biofuels. Perhaps some enterprising U.S. graduate students have created programs like this. If not, it’s a great model to follow.