The citizens of west Scotland have been getting used to a novel way of paying for their bus fares over the past three years - with used oil from their chip pans. Under a highly innovative scheme launched by bus operator Stagecoach, customers have been encouraged to fill a container with their used cooking oil in return for discounted bus travel.
By doing so, they are literally oiling the wheels of the public transport system, since the redundant oil is converted to bio-diesel and used to power Stagecoach West Scotland's fleet of eight bio-buses. The buses were converted from diesel to run on the bio-fuel, which is made from used cooking oil and other food industry by-products, all of which are from sustainable sources. Under the scheme, cooking oils are collected by East Ayrshire Council's recycling depot and forwarded to Argent Energy to be converted to biofuel.
Stagecoach created a dedicated website for the project, www.thebiobus.com, where customers can read about the scheme and even order a container to be delivered to collect their own waste oil.
The scheme's success has been evident in a number of different ways. By using bio-diesel, the bio-buses are responsible for an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions, which has added up to a saving of 2,450 tonnes of carbon dioxide since the launch. During the first 12 months, the number of passengers on the services in question rose by 32.7% to 1.1 million, largely because of people using public transport instead of their cars. And as well as capturing the imagination of the local community and raising awareness of bio-fuels, the scheme attracted attention from as far afield as Russia and North America.
The bio-buses are, in any case, just the most high-profile component of a group-wide carbon management programme which has set carbon reduction targets for all Stagecoach divisions over the next five years. Among the other measures being adopted are the widespread use of ultra-low-sulphur diesel, with 5% bio-content and additives to reduce fuel consumption and emissions. Local depots recycle more than 50% of waste and electricity is carefully managed and purchased from renewable sources.
The next step is to roll out the bio-buses in Cambridge, where a fleet of 20 is being launched this year; some are even taking recycled dual fuel tanks from the original west Scotland fleet, which is in turn being upgraded.
With more than 7,000 vehicles carrying 2 million passengers a day, Stagecoach has demonstrated that public transport can make a significant contribution to reducing the country's carbon dioxide emissions. There may be a lot more old cooking oil about to hit the road.
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WEB LINKS: Stagecoach Group www.stagecoachgroup.com
Other links: www.greenerbybus.com; www.thebiobus.com