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Gaurav Gupta | October 18, 2019 | 3 min read
Clean food, cleaner environment

Cooking oil is the backbone of our industry – and when not used wisely, a notorious culprit in several health issues. Almost everything we eat uses edible oils and thus, the potential effect on food quality (read: your health) is extremely high.

Well, that’s where and how we come into the picture.

Before we get into details, let us give credit where it’s due. The Government took the leap with an initiative wherein the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas joined forces with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to introduce what they called RUCO (Repurpose Used Cooking Oil). Spearheaded by FSSAI, RUCO targets two outcomes at the same time – ensure responsible usage and disposal of edible oil in commercial kitchens (thereby avoiding several life-threatening diseases), and reduce our country’s dependence on crude oil imports by repurposing waste edible oil. 

We are well positioned to act as an enabler for Used Cooking Oil (UCO) aggregation across the country. HoReCa (Hotel/Restaurant/Café) segment consumes almost 30% of total cooking oil of the country, and we are keen on leveraging our reach, supply chain and technology expertise to bring scale to this fantastic initiative. We are already putting our reach (on both FBO side and the customer side) to good use by raising awareness and incentivizing responsible food habits in the industry and UCO initiative aligns well with our core mission: better food for more people. We hope to witness zero oil adulteration and responsible use of oil.

But there is much more to this development. And we are happy to introduce the work that we are presently doing to used cooking oil (UCO).

Here’s how – 

To put it succinctly, cooking oil after it has served its lifetime in the kitchen can be converted into biodiesel. Food businesses, by design, are supposed to not overuse oil and discard it for industrial purpose after an FSSAI specified usage. RUCO initiative brings about the right regulatory framework to ensure that the used cooking oil is discarded before it becomes a health hazard, and does not find its way into second-hand markets (yes, you read it right; there is a large second-hand market for used oil – which is why, think of cooking oil when you indulge in your favorite samosa next time).

However, aggregation of UCO from thousands of food businesses remains a key bottleneck in this initiative. Traceability is the next big challenge. After all, when and how does the oil move from the restaurant to the point of end-use? Being a waste product, it exchanges several hands, which blurs the accountability of responsible disposal. Add to that the thin economics of wastage management – and we end up with an extremely complex operating environment.

Here’s a sneak-peek into how we do it:

This approach not only solves for the major problems for two large industries (health and petroleum) in the country but also creates a lot of synergistic environmental effects – by replacement of conventional diesel with environment-friendly biodiesel. Partner restaurants signing up with us will be issued a certificate of compliance with FSSAI framework. The certificate will be a testimony of organised traceability on the end-use of UCO and its responsible disposal.

We have already made some progress and UCO will be procured from 1000 kitchens in Delhi NCR this month. The collection drive will spread to five cities in India by next month (November) and we intend to scale up rapidly from there. We have partnered with one of the largest biodiesel manufacturers in the country – BioD Energy, and we will work closely with BioD to achieve scale as quickly as possible. The Government needs approximately 5 million tons of UCO per year by 2030 (for 5% Biodiesel blending targets) – and that’s the benchmark we are using to determine our own targets.

It’s an audacious goal given the massive procurement targets but we are proud to be working towards this cause – putting our weight behind the initiative – and leveraging our reach and capabilities to include as many partner restaurants as possible. 

Stay tuned for more updates on the UCO initiative and feel free to reach out to us with your queries at sustainability@zomato.com

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