From Fryer to Fuel Tank: How Burgerville Helps Protect the Environment for Future Generations

Sustainability isn’t just something Burgerville does; it’s part of their core identity as they strive to play a positive role in protecting the environment for future generations.

Fresh, local, and sustainable are three core company values at Burgerville. They live those values in every aspect of their business, from where they purchase their delicious ingredients to how they use only renewable energy to power their restaurants.

Traditions of changing the menu to reflect what’s in season, Burgerville’s commitment to renewables, recycling and land stewardship leads to partnerships with neighboring farms and businesses.

We sat down with Burgerville’s Chief Cultural Officer, Jack Graves, to learn more about their long-held practice of recycling their used cooking oil.

Jack told us. “Burgerville used to divert it to companies that utilized it in the creation of soaps, make-up and other products, which was helpful because it was recycling, but we wanted to do more. That’s why we helped SeQuential Biofuels ignite their oil collection program in the Spring of 2006.”

SeQuential Biofuels is an Oregon-based company that helps companies reduce their waste through taking used cooking oil and converting it into low-carbon biodiesel. An early participant in the Oregon Clean Fuels Standard, SeQuential is a real Clean Fuels success story. Thanks to the Standard, their company is growing, and their biodiesel is now sold all over the West.

Back in 2006, SeQuential didn’t yet have the infrastructure in place to easily collect from multiple restaurant locations. Burgerville helped there, too, pairing SeQuential with a local company whose trucks were equipped to collect the used oil from the restaurants.

Burgerville recognized the promise of biodiesel early on. As the first restaurant chain to sign on in 2006, Burgerville’s partnership was a significant boost to SeQuential. Now, with 42 restaurants throughout the Pacific Northwest, Burgerville remains an important collaborator and provides not only their used cooking oil, but also important insights and feedback to SeQuential.

Prior to diverting the used oil to SeQuential, Burgerville paid rendering companies to remove and recycle their used oil. Now, SeQuential pays Burgerville for the oil they collect, thanks in part to programs like the Clean Fuels Standard that make the alternative fuels market very robust.

Today, SeQuential uses the oil to create the lowest carbon biofuel on the market, and, as Jack says, “It was our values that informed the decision, not the financial incentive.”

How has Burgerville been using the funds it receives from SeQuential? “We reinvest in Frontline System tanks for our restaurants to begin the filtering process of the oil for SeQuential,” says Jack. “It makes the oil safer and easier to handle. We have 12 installed so far, with four more installations planned this year. Each restaurant system costs around $10,000.” In other words — Burgerville uses its SeQuential money to finance additional oil collection tanks and filtering systems at more restaurants to make their recycling efforts even more effective.

In 2016, Burgerville recycled 83,883 gallons of used cooking oil, and says they’re on track to recycle even more this year. SeQuential’s oil collection program celebrates over a decade this year, and recently surpassed the milestone of collecting from 20,000 restaurants.

The Burgerville/SeQuential relationship has been such a beneficial one, Burgerville wants to make sure other companies know how easy it is to join them. As Jack jokingly told us, “we’re recycling, contributing to the creation of the lowest carbon biofuels around and hey, the air smells like french fries — what could be better?” We couldn’t agree more.