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Wissahickon Charter School Unveils EPA Funded Biodiesel Project

Release Date: 12/03/2008
Contact Information: Bonnie Smith, 215-814-5543,

PHILADELPHIA (December 3, 2008) - - Today, EPA joined students and teachers from Philadelphia’s Wissahickon Charter School to see how the school's biodiesel processor turns waste vegetable oil from a local restaurant into fuel to power Outward Bound's van that is used for student field trips.

SmartFuel a project of the William James Foundation of Washington, D.C., has been designed to provide practical experience and build confidence among middle school students that they can make a difference on the local and global level.

Under the guidance of SmartFuel staff and Wissahickon's science teacher, students designed a 15-gallon biodiesel processor and collection system that produces biodiesel fuel comprised primarily of vegetable oil, with 20 percent methanol and a very small portion of potassium hydroxide. Students contacted local restaurants and arranged with McMenamin's Tavern on Germantown Avenue to acquire its waste vegetable oil for use in the project, one five-gallon bucket at a time.

EPA helped to fund this project with an environmental education grant to the foundation for $15,440 in October 2006.

“By using recycled bio-fuels, the drivers of tomorrow are becoming the environmental leaders of today. We are excited to see the outcome of this environmental education project. To ensure a clean, secure energy future, EPA is proud to help the next generation understand the lasting environmental and health benefits of renewable fuels,” said Donald S. Welsh, mid-Atlantic regional administrator.

It is estimated that the country uses more than 37 trillion gallons of diesel fuel annually for highway vehicles. Diesel fuel combustion produces pollution in the form of sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide and fine particles. As an alternative to fossil fuel, biodiesel not only reduces pollution but also recycles used vegetable oil.