Waste vegetable oil has long been the substance of choice for environmentalists who want to fill their diesel engines with something other than petroleum. But as other non-petroleum options creep into the mainstream–hybrid and electric vehicles, for example–perhaps we should think of something else to do with all that excess oil from our Happy Meals and Chinese food binges. Helen Bailey, a research manager at Aggregates Industries, has an idea: dump it on the roads.
Bailey has developed a product called Vegetex, which is essentially road tar made with waste vegetable oil. The substance can replace up to 20% of bitumen, a mixture of organic liquids that binds asphalt road surfaces. There are a number of advantages to using Vegetex. Unlike traditional bitumen, it doesn’t have to be heated before being added to asphalt, and that means big energy savings. Using local waste oil also means that less bitumen needs to be imported. And of course, Vegetex saves countless restaurant drains from being clogged by vegetable oil.
Vegetex is currently in the trial stages, with 40 tons of the material laid down on a road in Bedford, U.K., this past October. No word on the status of future pilot projects, but we would love to see Vegetex tested out on highways–provided that grease-loving biofuel enthusiasts don’t protest too much.