In Oakland, a circular economy is making it possible
By Dayne Delahoussaye, Head of North American Public Affairs, Neste
Sometimes making a positive impact requires a fresh perspective, which was just what the city of Oakland, California, wanted in its push to create a cleaner environment for its citizens and a better future for generations to come.
Oakland had already become the first major U.S. city to convert its entire municipal fleet—including emergency vehicles, garbage trucks, street sweepers, and off-road construction equipment—to renewable diesel. The product they chose, Neste MY Renewable DieselTM, is a low-carbon, direct-replacement fuel produced from 100 percent renewable and sustainable raw materials.
“Switching from fossil diesel to renewable diesel automatically converts even the city’s oldest and dirtiest polluting vehicles into alternative-fuel vehicles—overnight and with no additional costs,” said Jason Mitchell, Oakland’s director of public works.
By switching to Neste MY Renewable Diesel, the city of Oakland’s fleet was able to cut engine-out greenhouse gas emissions by 74 percent, fine particulates by 33 percent, carbon monoxide emissions by 24 percent and nitrogen oxide emissions by 9 percent, compared to fossil diesel.
“Switching to renewable diesel does not cost any money. Not switching to renewable diesel costs us in climate change and excess emissions. It is the best investment any business could make,” said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.
Making the switch was a great step toward clearing the air for the community, but Oakland wanted to do more. Inspired by the “circular economy” model, which encourages the reuse of materials that are traditionally thrown away, city leaders began to search for a way to repurpose the city’s waste and give it a new life
To that end, the city of Oakland and Neste joined forces to gather waste cooking oils from restaurants and other businesses in the San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward metropolitan area. Neste transforms this waste into renewable diesel, and then returns it to the city to fuel its municipal fleet.
This concept creates a win-win-win for the city, its businesses and its residents. It helps the local economy in and around Oakland, improves air quality in the city, and, of course, ensures that its food waste doesn’t go to waste.
With this program, the city of Oakland is setting an example for the world. “We are excited about this partnership to make ‘from city waste to city fuel’ a reality and do our part to improve the lives of the people in the city. Oakland’s choice of making local waste part of their energy solution sets an example for the Bay Area, for all of California and beyond,” said Jeremy Baines, President of Neste US.
“A circular economy means that the french fries you ate today actually may end up in the gas tank of the fire truck that you see driving around Oakland,” said Schaaf. “We are literally taking cooking grease from our local restaurants and converting that into diesel fuel, which fuels the entire Oakland fleet. We have one of the most sustainable companies in the world partnering with one of the most sustainable cities in the world.”
In the first three months of the program alone, the San Francisco-Oakland- Hayward metropolitan area collected an estimated 340 metric tons of used cooking oil. This initiative has made a significant impact on helping to fuel Oakland’s diesel-powered fleets and has rewarded the city’s commitment to doing what’s best for its residents and the environment.
To learn more, visit neste.us/circular-economy.