About 5 percent of night market vendors do not commission licensed recyclers to dispose of used cooking oil and 55 percent of vendors who claimed to use recyclers could not produce certificates or documentation, according to a recent survey by the Conservation Mothers Foundation.
The survey was the first comprehensive survey initiated by a non-governmental organization on the disposal of waste cooking oil by night market vendors and restaurants.
Of the 1,219 surveyed night market vendors at 60 night markets nationwide, 58 percent had waste cooking oil processed by recyclers, 9 percent by cleaning crews and 6 percent by night market management, with 95 percent of vendors duly disposing of used cooking oil, the survey showed.
Of the 200 restaurants surveyed nationwide, 70 percent had waste cooking oil managed by recyclers and 9 percent by cleaning crews, the survey showed, also indicating that 96 percent of the restaurants were certified operations.
However, 393 of the 704 vendors and 40 of the 141 restaurants that claimed to have employed licensed recyclers could not produce documents proving such an agreement, foundation chairwoman Chou Chun-ti (周春娣) said.
Recent food scares spurred the foundation to initiate the survey, especially after a food scandal last year involving adulterated oils, when the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) said that it only monitored the flow of about 7,000 tonnes out of the 70,000 tonnes of waste oil generated every year, Chou said.
The EPA said that it has overseen about 60,000 tonnes of waste oil that are produced every year and it has conducted 27,534 inspections this year on small food businesses.
Only 4 percent of operators hired unlicensed recyclers or unduly processed used cooking oil, earning them a place on an agency watch list, the EPA said.
Chain restaurants and large food manufacturers are required to declare used cooking oil they generate to the agency, while licensed recyclers are required to report the amount of waste oil they collect from smaller enterprises on a monthly basis, the EPA said.
Any business that commissions an unlicensed recycler to dispose of used cooking oil faces a maximum fine of NT$6,000, while unlicensed operators face fines of between NT$60,000 and NT$300,000 for unauthorized processing, as stipulated in the Waste Disposal Act (廢棄物清理法), the EPA said, adding that it had already disciplined five firms.
EPA Department of Waste Management Director Wu Sheng-chung (吳盛忠) said the difference between the data cited by Chou and the EPA’s official accounting arose from a method based on the Japanese food industry that the EPA used in 2007, which exaggerated the actual amount of waste oil generated in Taiwan each year.
Downstream operators cannot be relied upon to voluntarily report the amount and whereabouts of used cooking oil, Chou said, adding that the government should establish an oversight and measuring mechanism to proactively collect waste oil data on a more regular basis.
She called on the government to establish a certification system by issuing yearly certificates to qualified vendors that consumers can rely on.
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