DALLAS — French fries and chicken nuggets may not make for a healthy meal for students, but the oil used to cook them can be used to fuel their school bus.
Dallas County has been collecting vegetable oil from businesses all around North Texas, including the American Airlines Center, which donated 8,500 gallons this year. The oil is being processed into bio-fuel for their buses, a move that saves money and natural resources while cutting down on pollution.
Dallas County workers use hoses to pick up the grease and transport it back to a factory, where the process of turning food into fuel takes place. Chemicals wash the impurities out of the oil, then it must sit and separate for 24 hours.
Once the oil is clear, it can be used for fuel.
Local homeowners are helping out too, donating 4,000 gallons of vegetable oil through drop-off stations already this year. The stations have empty containers that residents can take home, fill up and bring back.
"Anything that turns into a solid when it cools can be thrown away," said Cease the Grease spokeswoman Helen Dulac. "However, if you have used cooking oil — anything that is vegetable-based — [it] can be recycled into the bio-diesel for our area school buses."
And when you have 1,650 school buses transporting 60,000 students across 14 districts every day, every penny pinched on fuel can make a big difference.
Even in the start-up year, after buying chemicals and building the factory, the county saved $400,000 — and that number continues to grow.
This coming school year, the buses will be 5 percent bio-diesel across the board.
"We're saving tax dollars, we're cleaning up the air, because it's virtually pollution-free, and we're reducing our dependence on foreign oil," said Dallas County Schools board president Larry Duncan. "It's a win-win-win."
For more information on how to donate your grease as a business or to find drop-off locations, go to the Dallas Cease the Grease Web site.