Call us hippies if you will, but as soon as we got here we realised that we could develop a way of filtering used vegetable oil from our kitchens and reusing it as fuel for the generator and the Land Rover.
So, in our first few months last year, we asked the Kitchen to save all their waste oil in the big yellow jerries. When we had enough to do anything half decent with we'd work on the filtering system.
It took a while to get the kitchen into the habit of regular collection of the waste oil - the first 20l jerrycan took two months to fill - but now we're getting a full 20l jerry every other week to play with.
The first filter stage is to get the big chunks of stuff out. Breadcrumbs, pieces of chips, Tilapia tails - it all smells quite disgusting when we're doing it. We have a stock of old mozzie nets that we chop up into squares and layer in a filter, balanced in the neck of a jerry.
The next stage takes a lot longer. We have about 16 boxes of coffee filter papers in the store from when a manager two years back bought the wrong size for the coffee machine. The paper provides a very fine filter. Which takes forever for a cup of waste oil to pass through. R puts the jerries outside, in direct sun (warm oil passes through a lot quicker) and pours a mugful of old oil into the filter and then comes back to the office. Twenty minutes later, or whenever he is passing, he tops it up. In this way it takes several days to second stage filter a 20l jerry of used oil, but the stuff out the other end is a lot cleaner for it.
(We have to take care when it rains tho - many a time we've headed out to the shops and had to call the bar in a hurry to ask them to move the jerries inside when we see how black the clouds back over Red Chilli are...)
R then adds a little white spirit, to thin the oil, and pours it out into clean, dry old water bottles. We wait two weeks for the glycerine to separate out of the mix, and then it's usable. We're adding it to diesel, as to go 100% veg would require a lot more chemicals to be added and make the whole process a lot harder to implement, but we can go up to 50/50 with a veg oil/diesel mix, though realistically, with the amount of oil we can produce, we've probably never gone more than 70/30...
The funny thing is, despite Africa being so inherently anti-waste (everything is used and reused several times over here - every piece of 'rubbish' has a use), most Ugandans we've told about the joys of running your landrover or gennie on what is essentially re-cycled chip fat tends to laugh in disbelief.
It was only when R polished off an article for one of the newspapers here about it that a taxi driver we knew suddenly sat up and took notice. When R told him about it, he scoffed. It was another one of those Muzungu stories that just didn't ring true. But when he read it in the New Vision, well, it was most definitely true.