City to collect oil for Shaw

Published 12:26 am Thursday, December 4, 2008

Soon, large green cabinets that look like oversized pie safes will be familiar sites at Cost Plus, the Andalusia Fire Department, the city’s public works building on Montgomery Ave., and Winn Dixie.

But don’t open the screened doors expecting the aroma of warm apples.

The cabinets are designed to serve as exchange points for used cooking oil and empty collection containers. Once filled, the containers of used oil will be picked up and processed into biodiesel fuel for Shaw Industries Plant 65 and the city of Andalusia.

Mayor Earl Johnson had one of the cabinets on display at Tuesday night’s council meeting and explained how important the program is for the city and for Shaw.

Shaw actually began recycling cooking oil earlier this year. When the city of Andalusia received a U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Business Enterprise grant to fund the equipment needed for converting oil to biodiesel and the containers for facilitating curbside pickup, the city agreed to provide a portion of that used oil to Shaw for its program.

Shaw manager Cary Baker told Andalusia Rotarians on Tuesday that local support of this initiative means political capital for the plant, which puts approximately $5 million a week into the local economy.

Johnson said to understand the industry’s impact on the community one must consider the standard multiplier of every dollar spent in the community turning over five times.

“Anything we can do as a city to help them, we will do,” he said.

Council member Terry Powell, who is also the financial manager at Shaw, said that support of the recycling effort sends a strong message to Shaw’s corporate powers.

“People in Andalusia want us here and they’re willing to get outside the box to keep us here,” Powell said. “The company is spending money here, and we need all the political capital and goodwill we can get.”

Johnson said the city will begin curbside pickup of used cooking oil in January. At present, Shaw can process up to 3,000 gallons of cooking oil a month. Johnson said the city will add what it picks up to what Shaw collects until that threshold is met, then begin producing biodiesel for its own use.

Another benefit, he added, is that recycling the oil is good for the environment and keeps oil and grease out of the city’s sewerage lines.

In addition to working with individuals, Shaw also is collecting used cooking oil from David’s Catfish House, Winn Dixie Deli, Hilltop, Zack’s (Evergreen), Famous Floyd’s Restaurant (Evergreen), Mason’ Serenity House, Green’s Bar-B-Que, Mizell Memorial Hospital, Big R Restaurant (Florala), Montezuma Mental Health Center and the Airport Garden Café.