Local Company Playing Unlikely Role as Alt-Energy Heroes

100-year-old American By-Products Recyclers is a new partner to biodiesel energy production.

  • Hillsborough Patch
  • April 2, 2013
For nearly a century, members of the Soracco family quietly plied their trade, working in the steady, if unglamorous, business of recycling used vegetable oil.

When the family’s fourth generation moved into the business in the person of Todd Magee, it was becoming clear to Magee and his uncle, Robert Soracco, the world was changing from the days when “Papa Luigi”—Magee’s great-grandfather—collected used cooking oil from New York City restaurants in a horse-drawn wagon in 1914.

But then again, in some ways, it hasn’t changed that much: even then, the oil was recycled back into a more valuable product (candles and soap). Now, the bulk of the used oil is finding its way into the fuel tanks of diesel trucks, offering an effective, safe—and more environmentally sustainable—supply of fuel.

“When Rudolph Diesel built the first engine, he envisioned it running on vegetable oil,” Magee said.

IMG_9220American By-Product Recyclers had built a solid business collecting the oil from restaurants throughout  Northern New Jersey and across New York’s borough’s, but Magee and Soracco wanted to keep their business growing—and Hillsborough-based Planet Earth Biodiesel was born.

The Roycefield Road center now houses both companies’ operations, where a fleet of trucks brings in as much as 15,000 gallons of used oil daily for refining back into pure oil, which is primarily sold to companies that use it to produce biodiesel.

Magee sees the future for his business more secure now that they’re tied to the growing demand for alternative fuels, of which biodiesel may be among the least expensive and most environmentally-sustainable of products.

Some studies estimate biodiesel could reduce carbon emissions from motor vehicles by 67 percent, with a virtually non-existent carbon footprint: any carbon emitted using the fuel only reflects the carbon absorbed by the plants it’s made from.

And while perhaps not everyone will be driving a diesel—although with new models getting more than 40 mpg, according to Edmunds.com, why not?—Magee sees the fuel as a major component in America’s energy independence.

“It seems like since the first oil embargo, this country has tried to solve the problem with one solution,” he said. “But I think we’re now at a point where you can have 20 things that are helping.”

And with research helping to make biomass fuels more efficient, Magee sees room for continued business growth.

“It’s a big deal now and I don’t see it reversing soon,” he said. He cites the recent initiation of New York to Amsterdam flights by KLM airlines with biodiesel-powered Boeing 777 planes.

The addition of Planet Earth Biodiesel gives Hillsborough a second company working in the development of alternative fuels, with Homestead Road-based Primus Green Energy.

But where Planet Earth is providing source material for a well-established technology, Primus is looking to build a new high-tech source of a gasoline alternative.

Either way, in the not too distant future, it’s easy to see a more sustainable fuel supply with a strong foundation in Hillsborough.

Excerpted from article by John Patten, Hillsborough Patch