Black market for restaurant grease and thefts are on the rise
There's a new black market on the rise -- and it's not for drugs.
No, this black market is for old fryer oil, and it's resulting in restaurant thefts nationwide. The oil, called yellow grease, has increased value as the government increased mandates for renewable fuels. The grease can be turned into biodiesel.
Last year, 1.4 billion pounds of grease was made into biodiesel according to Bloomberg. The price is more than triple what it was in 2000 and now sits at 25 cents per pound.
The National Renderers Association said that as much as $75 million of grease is used illegally. In the last few months, 44 cases of theft have been reported. One case occurred in a Knoxville Wingstop, where two men used hoes to drain the grease. They stole around 2,200 pounds valuing at $600.
"It's like crack money," Sumit Majumdar, president of Buffalo Biodiesel Inc., told Bloomberg. "There's an actual market for stolen oil. It's almost like a pawn shop or scrap-metal business."
Majumdar said he had to replace over 1,000 locks on tanks in restaurants that Buffalo Biodiesel serves. Thefts in states like New York and Pennsylvania are on the rise.
Eater reports that a string of grease thefts occurred in 2013 as well, but the trend has returned.