Since 2010, Barcelona has been distributing Olipots - containers for collecting used cooking oil that will be recycled as biodiesel.
One liter of oil will contaminate 1,000 gallons of water.
Spain is renowned for its rich, colorful and flavorsome cuisine. But preparing paella, tapas and crispy churros uses lots of cooking oil. In Barcelona alone, each person uses around 6 liters of oil a year, which means 8 million liters for the entire city!
Cooking oil harms the environment
Cooking oil is not like other waste. Insoluble in water, it requires special treatment and can’t be poured down sinks or toilets. It not only clogs the pipes, but also reduces the water treatment capacity because the oil forms a film that suffocates the bacteria responsible for cleaning wastewater.
Making it easier to recycle used oil
To remedy the problem, in 2010 Barcelona’s city council opened "puntos verdes" - green points - in all parts of the city. Residents can drop off any type of cooking oil there (olive, soybean, sunflower, walnut, etc.).
To make it easier to store and transport the oil, the city also came up with the idea of giving its inhabitants a suitable container – called an Olipot. The 75cl bottle was designed to overcome all the usual inconveniences: a filter traps food residue, an insulating skin means it’s possible to pour in oil as hot as 180 °C, a screw cap eliminates leaks, and a handle simplifies transportation.
The original stock of 7,000 bottles ran out in less than a month, so the city decided to produce 600,000 Olipots - one for every household in the city.
Once collected, the waste oil is sent to recycling plants where it is processed into biodiesel, which then fuels the vehicles that run between the green points and the plants.
It’s a fine example of circularity which, thanks to Olipot, the people of Barcelona have happily adopted.
Main picture: Getty Images