Grease theft penalties among new laws for the new year

Posted December 28, 2012

— Slippery characters who steal used restaurant grease could face felony charges under a new law that goes into effect New Years Day. 

"What was once garbage and had virtually no value is now a commodity that people are stealing," said Rep. John Torbett, R-Stanley.

The grease law is among the last set of new laws a regulations going into effect from the 2012 General Assembly session. Among the other provisions contained in 16 bills that have Jan. 1 effective dates are:

  • more stringent background check requirements for those who work in daycare settings. (HB 737)
  • towns, cities and counties with between 100 and 500 workers must now use the federal E-verify program to make sure those they are hiring are in the United States legally. Local governments with more than 500 workers had to start doing this on Oct. 1. (HB 36)
  • doctors and groups based out of state that provide free health care services will have legal protections when they operate in North Carolina. (HB 614)

Torbett said that grease haulers and restaurants came to him with the grease theft problem addressed in HB 512. But law enforcement hasn't always taken the crime seriously, he said.

"Some judges were treating it just as a, 'What are you doing in my courtroom?' kind of thing," Torbett said. 

Under the law Torbett sponsored, grease collectors will have to carry liability insurance and provide certain paperwork that establishes ownership of the grease. Those who steal grease worth less than $1,000 would be guilty of a misdemeanor. Those who steal more than $1,000 worth of grease would be guilty of a low level felony.

Grease theft has been a national problem in states like New Jersey for years. California and Virginia have also enacted special regulations dealing with grease collection. The U.S. Department of Agriculture tracks the value of "yellow grease" as a commodity, which can fetch between 30 and 40 cents per pound. Bigger rendering companies will turn leftover grease into animal feed, cosmetics, soap and other products.

In North Carolina, small bio fuels producers used leftover grease to create biodiesel that can be used to run specially equipped automobiles or home heating systems.

"We feel like we've lost $10,000 worth of product in the past six months," said Woodrow Eaton, a co-founder of Blue Ridge BioFuels, a company based in Asheville that picks up grease from restaurants throughout Western North Carolina and part of South Carolina. "We're paying the restaurants based on the volume of grease we collect," Eaton said. Theft, he said, costs both his company money by wasting time and depriving it of raw materials, but costs restaurants money they're not getting from the sale of the grease.

"We haven't had any luck ourselves catching anyone. We're hoping law enforcement might take in more seriously" as a result of the new law," he said.

Biodiesel producers, he said, are worth the projection because they're the only domestic producers of liquid fuel in the state. "It's biodegradable, it's non-toxic...The industry has a huge amount of benefit to the state."

But not all biofuel producers are convinced the new law will be helpful.

"We call it the grease police bill," said Lyle Estill, president of Piedmont Biofuels based in Chatham County. His company collects grease from restaurants throughout the Triangle. "This bill doesn't do anything about the people who are stealing grease," he said. He said the bill will help big rendering companies at the expense of hobbyist and others who collect and use or sell small batches of grease. 

"Imagine the teacher who would collect the used grease from the school cafeteria once a week and sell it to my company. He'll no longer be able to do that...It will have no impact but it will shift the playing field in favor of big (companies)," Estill said. 


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  • infinity555 Jan 4, 2013


    If President Obama is going to use his presidential concessions to pass new laws allowing millions of illegal aliens to stay and the Congress going along with this outrageous policy issue then we have no alternative as taxpayers to fight back. To return some commonsense to the hierarchy in the Senate and House we must demand the political parties re-energize the LEGAL WORKFORCE BILL (H.R.2885), that exerts mandatory E-Verify on businesses giving them no excuse for using unauthorized workers, when 24 million Americans have no employment. Harsh examples should be publicized of prosecutable accountability with prison sentences applied. The U.S. populace is forced by court orders to financially support foreign nationals once they slip through our border or the other 46 percent who just fly in from other countries misrepresenting themselves as tourists. Another bill that has been swept under the rug by both political parties i

  • davidmcleod Dec 30, 2012

    The liability insurance requirement does not apply to grease collectors. It applies only to renderers - companies who are processing animal carcasses.

  • Scubagirl Dec 29, 2012

    So let me get this straight.....our state has huge financial and other worries and THIS is what they come up with-a grease law????

    Glad to see some of the others that have passed though, especially 737 & 36-those should have been in place for a long time, but better late than never.