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Used Cooking Oil: Major Players in Japan Compete with Foreign Companies for Supply

Fierce competition and rising prices for exports of used cooking oil from Japan are linked to the growing demand for alternative aviation fuels like SAF.

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Refueling a passenger aircraft with jet fuel derived from food waste, Haneda Airport on the morning of November 6, 2020 (Kyodo).

On November 24, real estate giant Mitsubishi Estate Co. and JGC Holdings Corp., a major company in plant engineering, announced an agreement to collaborate on the collection of used cooking oil (UCO). The two firms aim to commercialize sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), which has a low environmental impact. SAF can be made from plant-based UCOs, including tempura oil.

Securing the raw material is said to be the biggest hurdle. The type of SAF that JGC Holdings is working to develop from UCO leads in the race for commercialization. But securing suppliers of raw materials “still requires efforts,” according to a company representative.

The quality of waste oil coming from Japan has led to strong demand from overseas SAF businesses. This intensified competition is resulting in higher prices.

Used Cooking Oil Price Rises Sharply

Masato Shiomi, executive director of UCO Japan, a business association for companies working in the collection of waste oil, explained the current state of affairs. "Growing exports have resulted in an insufficient supply to those who need UCO domestically," he said.

According to UCO Japan, 380,000 tons of used cooking oil was collected and processed in Japan in fiscal year 2021. Of this, 250,000 tons was used as raw material for livestock feed, ink, and other products. The remaining 130,000 tons was used as raw material for fuel, of which an overwhelming 120,000 tons was exported overseas. Amounting to nearly one-third of the total oil collected, exported UCO increased by 30,000 tons from 2020's figure (90,000 tons).

The trend was exacerbated by a decreased supply from restaurants amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The export price per kilogram soared from ¥78.7 JPY in January 2021 to ¥199.1 JPY in October of 2022, a 2.5-fold increase. While domestic trade prices have also been on the rise, exports are priced even higher.

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Read the rest of this article here to learn more about the effort to promote local production and consumption of cooking oil for fuels. And find more great articles on the environment and the challenges of achieving the SDGs on our new website Japan 2 Earth (J2E), sparking a transition to the future.

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(Read this article in Japanese at this link.)


Author: Ryotaro Fukuda, The Sankei Shimbun

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