Obama administration touts San Francisco grease recycling program

San Francisco is still first in grease.

The City’s vaunted grease recycling program drew attention from President Barack Obama’s administration Tuesday, with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy witnessing firsthand how spent cooking oil is turned into engine-worthy biofuel.

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission’s Greasecycle program collects barrels of used oil from about 800 restaurants weekly, free of charge.

The oil is turned into biofuel to power Muni buses rather than poured down the drain, where it creates sewer-clogging grease balls that used to cost The City $3.5 million a year to clean out.

And no other city in America has anything like it, said McCarthy, who watched as a pair of SFPUC workers took away a barrel of grease from Johnny Foley’s restaurant near Union Square.

“This is innovation, not regulation,” said McCarthy, who added that the EPA has no plans to bring grease recycling to Washington, D.C., or other cities but is “hoping other cities see how this works.”

“This is already incentivized,” she said. “It’s saving them [The City and restaurants] money.”

On hand to show off The City’s “one-of-a-kind” grease recycling were some familiar faces: Jared Blumenthal, the former Department of the Environment director who now heads up the local EPA office; and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who was mayor when the program began in 2007.

Newsom is also still a participant in the program; his Balboa Café in the Marina district has “very clean” grease, an SFPUC worker said.

Restaurants can sign up to have their grease hauled away at sfwater.org, where drop-off locations for grease from home kitchens are also posted.

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