By Eunice Ng
ONE day you could be filling up your vehicle's fuel tank with diesel converted from oil that was used to fry curry puffs.
A group of nine business studies students from Ngee Ann Polytechnic are working towards this target.
As part of their final-year project, the students have collaborated with local biodiesel company Alpha Biofuels to collect 48,000 litres of used cooking oil that can power vehicles, generators and other diesel equipment for the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in August.
The oil collected is being sent to Alpha Biofuels' manufacturing plant, where it will be converted into biodiesel. Vehicles such as the buses ferrying athletes from the Youth Olympic Village will be encouraged to use this biodiesel.
'We found this cause meaningful - youths doing their part to build a greener environment for a youth-oriented event,' said team leader Lim Kok Seng.
The 20-year-olds took 3-1/2 months to prepare and implement the project, after learning about Alpha Biofuels from their lecturer, Mr Leow Teck Sim.
Two used-oil collection drives were held at the polytechnic on Nov 30 and on Monday, where about 140 students donated used household cooking oil to the initiative.
The team also asked vendors in four canteens at the school to dispose of their used oil in oil drums so that they could be collected. About 1,200 to 1,500 litres of oil have been collected so far.
The students do not see this as a short-term project, but intend to pass it on to their juniors in their second year, who will then hand down the knowledge to primary and secondary school students. 'We want to reach out on a more personal level to get youths to go green, in a way that's understandable and achievable,' said Mr Lim.
Said Mr Leow, 37, who is course manager of the diploma in international business programme: 'Since most families cook anyway, it's a little effort on everyone's part to leave the used oil aside, but this builds up awareness and a little can eventually become a substantial amount.'
Alpha Biofuels provided them with the containers for oil collection, and lessons on environmental issues and the advantages of biodiesel. 'The students are very enthusiastic, and I think the best part is that they now know more about what climate change is about,' said the company's chief executive officer Allan Lim, 37.
The cooking oil goes through a chemical process called transesterification, where about 80 per cent to 90 per cent of it is converted into biodiesel.
It can be used in all diesel engines, and retails for a lower price than petroleum-based diesel. Alpha Biofuels, whose customers include Smart cabs, currently sells its biodiesel at $1 per litre at pumps in seven locations, such as at Bedok Transport in Defu Lane.
Biodiesel produced from used cooking oil emits about 62 per cent less greenhouse gases compared with conventional diesel.
But it is not quite enough to get taxi driver Jack Cai, 52, pumped up. 'Besides the cost, which will be my first consideration, it also depends on how convenient it is. If I have to make an empty trip just to get to the biodiesel retailers, then that defeats the purpose,' he said.
The students are planning a public education drive at Northpoint Shopping Centre in Yishun, with a workshop together with Alpha Biofuels on how to make soap from recycled cooking oil.
Donations of used cooking oil will also be collected at the drive, which will be held in the second week of next month.
This article was first published in The Straits Times.