Last updated on 8 November 2004

Waste cooking oil

Your questions answered about changes to the law concerning the use of waste cooking oil from catering premises.

  • What is waste cooking oil?

    Waste cooking oils, also known as used cooking oils or recovered vegetable oils result from the cooking of food by food manufacturers and catering establishments such as restaurants and industrial kitchens.

  • Why are vegetable oils used in animal feed?

    The addition of vegetable oils to animal feed is to produce high energy diets for certain intensive livestock enterprises.

    Fats and oils, such as those used in cooking, contain essential fatty acids. These essential fatty acids occur in all living organisms, including plants, and are used to bind ingredients of compound animal feed together.

    A level of fatty acids in the diets of animals is essential since some unsaturated acids cannot be synthesised by the animal. Most animal diets contain comparatively low levels of fat, but supplementation with fat or oil is sometimes made.

  • Why is waste cooking oil from catering establishments being banned from use in animal feed but used cooking oils from manufacturing premises permitted?

    The Animal By-Products Regulation bans the feeding to livestock of catering waste. The European Commission interprets catering waste to include used cooking oils from restaurants and catering facilities but does not include used cooking oils from manufacturing premises.

    Oils from manufacturing premises are felt to be identifiable, traceable and to contain no specified deleterious or prohibited contaminants.

    A scheme, audited by the Product Authentication International Ltd. (PAI), allowed their use in animal feed until 31 October 2004. The scheme, which involved collaboration between feed industry sectors and introduced Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) principles to the collection and processing of used cooking oils to be incorporated in feed, will continue for oils from food manufacturing premises. Further information on the work of the PAI can be found at the PAI website.

  • What is the Government doing to prepare for when the ban comes into effect?

    We have joined forces under an umbrella task force being led by the Cabinet Office Business Regulation Team to look both at the market dynamics and at the more immediate issue of how to ensure that waste cooking oil is only used for legitimate purposes. This co-operative approach is proving extremely productive.

  • Won't this just lead to oils been tipped down the drain?

    This advice adds to existing education initiatives to ensure that waste cooking oil is disposed of correctly, legally and in a manner that doesn't cause pollution or harm to health. We believe the existing authorised collectors will continue to collect waste and that producers from catering premises should not be directly affected. Local authority inspectors have been asked to check what catering premises are doing with their waste cooking oil.

  • How do I know who is an authorised collector?

    An authorised collector will need to be registered with the Environment Agency as a waste carrier. A carrier will have evidence of registration and you should ask for proof. If you have any doubts you should contact your local office of the Environment Agency.

  • If the collector is authorised, surely as a producer that's all I need to do?

    Producers, indeed anyone in the waste collection chain, have a Duty of Care to ensure that waste goes to an authorised person, is handled properly and consigned to authorised disposal or recovery. A general guidance leaflet on the Duty of Care can be obtained by calling Defra Publications on 08459 556 000 or at the Defra website.

  • Authorised uses include the production of biodiesel or burning as a fuel. What exactly is biodiesel?

    Most quality bio-diesels sold commercially are produced by subjecting waste cooking oil to a chemical process, though there is some limited scope for production from physical processes. Waste cooking oil can also be burnt in a suitably authorised power station to generate electricity. Both these uses are seen as a valuable alternative to fossil fuels, particularly by contributing to the Government's targets for reducing gaseous emissions as part of its climate change and renewable energy policies.

  • Are biodiesel production plants and plant burning waste cooking oil subject to control?

    Any establishment wishing to produce biodiesel or burn waste cooking oil or tallow will need to apply for authorisation from the Environment Agency prior to commencing production. This is to ensure that the plant operates to the necessary environmental standards. The nature of the authorisation will vary depending on the type of operation. In addition the establishment will need to register with HM Revenue & Customs to pay road fuel duty. Biodiesel currently enjoys a 20 pence per litre duty reduction compared with fossil diesel. Further details on which can be found at The HMRC website - HMRC reference: Notice 179E.

  • What should I do if I have any further concerns or questions?

    This will obviously depend upon the nature of your enquiry. Issues concerning animal health and food safety should be directed to your Local Authority Trading Standards Department, those concerned with waste, the environment or pollution should be directed to the Environment Agency. Enquiries on PAI certified members should be made to PAI. HM Revenue and Customs should be approached on all duty exemption issues.