The used cooking oil that's discarded by restaurants seems an unlikely target for thieves, says the Dallas Morning News. After being used to fry countless tasty servings of onion rings, chicken and french fries, the spent oil turns rancid and foul-smelling as it sits in large storage bins outside of restaurants. The Lewisville, Tx., Police Department arrested four people accused of stealing hundreds of dollars' worth of used grease from restaurants throughout the city. Experts say such arrests scratch the surface of a multimillion-dollar black market for the unlikely product known as “liquid gold.”
Used cooking oil has long been used for livestock feed and in manufacturing soap, detergent and other products. The advent of biofuels and an increase in commodity prices has fueled a rise in thefts, said David Meeker of the Virginia-based National Renderers Association. The crime has more than doubled between 2005 and 2012 and costs the industry $39 million annually. Meeker admits it's been hard to persuade law enforcement — or anyone else, for that matter — to take this crime seriously. In 2012, 5,943 grease thefts were reported nationwide but resulted in only 188 criminal charges and 97 successful prosecutions. “People at first said, 'This is a joke,'” Meeker said. “It may be called a waste product, but our guys pick up over 2 billion pounds a year. It's not a joke.” And this waste product has some real value, selling for 32 to 35 cents a pound on a recent day.