Innovative venture brings vegetable oil recycling to Brazil

| September 25, 2014

Today’s post starts with a Portuguese lesson. (We thought you needed a little shot of culture.)

oil recycling

Recoleo collects vegetable oil from homes and businesses in Brazil. From Paul Joseph.

Recolher is a verb that means: “To collect.”

Oleo means “Oil.”

Combine those two words, and what do you get? Recoleo. That’s the name of an innovative venture that aims to collect vegetable oil from homes and businesses in Brazil and process it into highly useful biodiesel fuel.

Recoleo is the brainchild of Nivia Freitas. Freitas’s colorful résumé boasts stints in modeling, distilling alcohol, and owning a retail clothing store. The unlikely eco-entrepreneur now finds herself as CEO and president of a wildly successful recycling operation with 25 corporate employees and 15 franchise team members.

Why the dramatic career shift? Freitas’s spouse, Ricardo Coelho is an ecology professor at a university. Coelho’s career may have served as inspiration, but not in the way you would think: “Even though my husband was an ecology professor, I myself didn’t really understand the benefits of recycling in the beginning,” Freitas told Julie Pham, a contributing writer at Forbes magazine. “I just saw it as an opportunity to make money and I had to work very hard.”

And “work very hard” is exactly what Freitas did. Recoleo started when Freitas sold her car—a gift from Coelho—and bought an old VW bus to collect oil, rented a small plot of land, and a tiny, unassuming office. That’s when Coelho knew she was serious about this business. In those early days, Freitas did the work with her own two hands. Coelho recalls having to ask Freitas to shower repeatedly in an effort to rid herself of the persistent smell of cooking oil.

As Recoleo slowly grew, Freitas “obtained the first environmental license that a recycling company had ever obtained in the state.”

Once they started franchising, things took off. Today, Recoleo collects “over 400,000 liters of vegetable oil from 1,500 homes and 3,500 businesses each month across four Brazilian states.” Recoleo has more than 5,000 clients who purchase the used oil. And with someone as tenacious as Freitas at the helm, Recoleo is not going to slow down any time soon. In fact, they’re going to get much bigger. Recoleo just worked out an agreement with McDonald’s to collect oil from more than 800 McDonald’s franchises across Brazil.

That’s a lot of oil. (That’s a lot of frying, now that we think about it.)

What do you think? Did you know that you shouldn’t dump used cooking oil down your drain? Would you save it up for a collection van if it meant helping the economy and the environment?

We think what Freitas is doing is a boa idéia. (That’s Portuguese for “good idea.”)

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Category: Food, Recycling programs

About the Author ()

Ellen Hunter Gans has been writing for RecycleReminders since the blog’s inception. She is passionate about words, new media and, of course, recycling.

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