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November 30, 2007
Used Cooking Oil Collected in New York City for Biodiesel
The Doe Fund offers programs in New York City that help homeless and formerly incarcerated individuals gain employment and housing through a system of innovative business ventures. The Doe Fund is perhaps most famous for the Ready, Willing and Able (RWA) program, in which its "men in blue" clean the city's streets and sidewalks, learn to prepare food and conduct apartment repairs. Along the 160 miles of streets and sidewalks that RWA cleans are restaurants looking for clean and responsible ways to dispose of used cooking oil, which led to the creation of RWA-Resource Recovery, an oil collection service.

RWA-Resource Recovery, which started a year ago this December, currently services 350 collection locations. The program sends out eight employees to collect used cooking oil, which is then sold to various biodiesel refineries. Collection routes extend through all of the city's boroughs, but are primarily in Manhattan and Brooklyn, says Lee Alman, Director of Public Affairs at The Doe Fund. Collection trucks are outfitted with vacuum pumps that pull used oil directly out of the restaurants' containers, and into a 1,000-gallon tank on the truck (a new truck has a 2,000-gallon capacity). Funded in part by HSBC bank, RWA-Resource Recovery is able to offer free collection, making a profit by selling the oil to the biodiesel refinery (ranging from 50 to 75 cents/gallon). They have not had problems with contaminants, and have in fact been complimented on the quality of the oil collected.

Three graduates of The Doe Fund's RWA transitional work program were hired as staff for the Resource Recovery program. "They're doing great," says Alman. "At the core of Ready, Willing & Able is paid work, which has helped more than 3,000 individuals leave behind lives of homelessness, addiction and incarceration to become productive members of society."


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