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Reward schemes for Used Cooking Oil Collection

Used cooking oil (UCO) is edible oil of vegetable or animal origin that has been used to cook food to a point where it is no longer fit for that purpose. Two are the main sources of UCO: Commercial UCO from hotels, restaurants, and caterers (HORECA) and domestic UCO from households.

UCO and other edible oils and fats originating from households are nowadays mostly disposed of together with municipal waste or simply poured into drainage. These actions pose severe environmental risks. When UCO is poured down the drain, it hardens and infiltrates into local sewer, water and waste management facilities, which are not equipped to process fats, oils and grease (FOG).

While the recycling of UCO has been a requirement for food industry companies in most of Europe, such recycling on a household level is still not gaining traction even if it presents a significant part of the overall production. The success of UCO collection initiatives strongly depends on the participation of individuals and probably the most important issue is to motivate citizens to recycle their used oil instead of simply disposing it with other Municipal Solid Waste or pouring it to the kitchens’ sinks. On the other hand, the major technical challenge of recycling household UCO is its collection, mainly due to the high logistics costs of such a process.

Such operations can be profitable, but only if there is a sufficient quantity of UCO recycled which means a sufficient number of citizens participating. The key success factors for a sustainable system have been recorded and the most crucial are:

  • motivation of citizens through a “citizens’ friendly” UCO disposal scheme,

  • focus on citizens’ awareness with regular, targeted communication activities,

  • support from local administrations, waste management companies and other stakeholders.

Reward schemes have been implemented in European cities to increase citizen participation in better waste management practices. This approach has proven to be very efficient, as rewards can motivate citizens to recycle more actively and diligently.

In this respect, SymbioLabs has partnered with DIADYMA / Waste Management of Western Macedonia S.A. to apply best practices and introduce a reward scheme designed specifically for facilitating the collection of UCO from households. SymbioLabs developed a digital platform for the management of the collection of household UCO with a two-fold aim: improve the monitoring of recycling rates in specific municipalities and reward citizens who participate in proportion to their contribution of UCO. Diadyma, the official body of waste management for the Region of Waste Macedonia consisting of 13 Municipalities will deploy the reward scheme using the digital platform, with the ambition to be adopted by 10.000 households in the region.


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