Wow, I never thought I'd be a supporter of McDonald's, given how I feel about fast food and that industry's ethical and environmental practices in general...but this is really great! It's really good to see a big company like this take the lead on using recycled materials for fuel. Let's hope others follow! Thanks for covering this, Ann...super-interesting stuff.
Elizabeth, I never eat at McDonald's or any other junk food outlet. Which is probably why I didn't know they'd started a huge biofuel program. I wouldn't say this has made me a supporter--they've almost single-handedly changed American agriculture, and not for the better (see a book called Fast Food Nation). But, as the reporter in the Green Prophet said last year, covering this story when it began, about the effects of all that methane from beef, "...McDonalds has to take these measures since their business has, overall, such a detrimental environmental impact." http://www.greenprophet.com/2011/07/uae-mcdonalds-greases-its-100-biodiesel-delivery-fleet/
Yes, I know how horrible McDonalds is and am familiar with that book...terrible, eh? And like you, I still don't really support them as a company. But even if they are doing this for business purposes and not altruistically, hopefully it will have a positive impact on the environment and biofuel endeavors...
Many large companies like McDonald's have instituted sustainability programs--and then actually done something about sustainability, such as this--because of overwhelming consumer demand. At least, that's what the bioplastics and biofuels companies, and the research firms, tell me. Generally speaking, companies with sustainability programs figure out what steps they can take that will either eventually save money, or at least not spend more than they're doing with existing solutions, which makes sense. Because of this, a lot of good has been done, and new technologies have been invented and/or proven out. All good.
Glad I'm not the only one who's read that book. What I'm hoping is that McDonald's program will serve as a huge test case for this kind of biofuel, and help shake out any kinks in the related processing or other technologies, as well as serve as a very public example that showcases what biofuels can do.
I agree, Liz. McDonald's, or fast food in general, may not be the best choice, but it's nice to see the company trying to do the right thing.
That being said, I will admit that I allow my daughter to indulge in a happy meal every once in a while. Besides the hamburger, the fries are substituted with apple slices and they offer milk in place of the standard soda. So, how bad can it be?
Ha, Jenn, I can completely relate to McDonald's as a "guilty pleasure." There is actually one in the area here in Portugal (they are everywhere, of course!) and I have gone maybe three times in the three years I have lived here. Once a friend and I went and promised we would never speak of what we did again. ;) But if they are trying to be greener in their practices, it makes me feel a little bit better about an occasional indulgence. At least all that horrible oil is going to a good cause!
Theres some comfort in learning that they actually change the cooking oil every now and then. Not every falafel bar does this on a consistent basis.
It would be interesting to learn how much energy derived from conventional fossil fuel is required to refine the used oil into IC-engine worthy biodiesel. The saving might not be as great as it appears at first. In fact, un-refined oil could be used to generate electricity via steam turbines to power the deep-fryers, thus saving at the other end of the chain.
Very informative Ann. I certainly applaud McDonalds for this effort and I, like everyone else, hopes this was seen as a corporate responsibility and not solely as a money-making venture. The very fact they were looking is laudable. Let's hope other companies follow suit and do what they can relative to conservation.
Thanks, bobjengr. I don't see anything wrong with McDonald's saving money from a green venture that also reduces carbon emissions. I think it's naive to expect that they wouldn't want to do it for that reason. Many companies have said they're happy to convert to biofuel, or be sustainable in other ways, as long as it's also economically feasible. Such as DuPont saying it's happy to shift all its performance plastics products to bioplastics--assuming that it makes both technical and economic/financial sense to do so http://www.designnews.com/document.asp?doc_id=239662 That, after all, is the real world.
linus52, thanks for your comments. The article states that, in the US, the *average* participating restaurant recycles 1,450 gallons of used cooking oil per year. The total is obviously a lot larger than that.
cookiejar, my bad--but your conversion is also wrong. My bad was taking the conversion given in source material instead of checking it with an online conversion engine as I usually do. Those give me 621,371 miles, not the 621,388 you cited.
We're moving from trivia to nitpicking over the number of digits used in conversion. The conversion factor I used was 1.6093 Km/mile. You conversion factor calculates out to 1.609344498. We're talking about a difference of 0.0027% There is no way the vehicles odometers would be that accurate.
In any case, the original error of your article according to your calculation was a significant 28.747% and according to mine was 28.744%. In either case a significant error magnified by the headline.
As the original figure was "over 1 million kilometers" lets just say "over 600,000 miles" rather than (800,000 miles) would have done the trick.
The story states that these 800,000 miles have been loged in the UAE. Does teh UAE know about this? I can't see how they would allow a substitute for petroleum-based fuels to be used in their countries.
Gorski, the UAE definitely knows. In McDonald Arabia's press release (link given in my article), it says that the project was funded in part by Dubai FDI, the foreign investment promotion arm of the Department of Economic Development.
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