Cameroon: Chemist Cleans Up Environment with Waste Oil Soap

In Cameroon’s port city of Douala, most used cooking oil from hotels and restaurants was once dumped down the drain, where it fouled up plumbing systems and caused pollution.  A Cameroonian chemist decided to use his knowledge to change that practice.

Cameroonian chemist Martial Gervais Oden-Bella makes soap and detergents by turning a toxic ingredient ecologically friendly.

He says the idea of recycling used cooking oil came when a hotel made the request after realizing that it produced huge quantities of used oil. At the time, the used cooking oil was discharged into nature, says Oden-Bella.

Concerned to protect the environment, he says, the hotel asked him what he could do with the used oil.

Oden-Bella began collecting used cooking oil in 2014 to convert into cleaning products.

It's now a business that produces 165 kilograms of soap and two tons of liquid detergent per month.

Even small businesses like donut maker Adeline Monkam have joined in recycling their oil.

She says in the past she used to dump the used oil. But people told her that it's polluting the environment, says Monkam, and that she can recycle it. So, she doesn’t dump it out anymore.

Environmental scientists say oil waste clogs up sewers and drains, pollutes the environment, and can harm wildlife.

Recycling the oil reduces toxic pollution and creates a new and valued product, says the deputy director of Biotex Laboratory Frantz Tafongang.

He says this type of use is to be greatly encouraged. Used oil is primarily toxic when it is directly consumed, says Tafongang. But, valued as a cosmetic, he says, there is no danger.

Biotex Laboratory says Douala hotels alone produce 20,000 liters of waste oil per month.

Chemist Oden-Bella says there is still too much cooking oil being dumped in Cameroon.

The more people are trained, he says, the more people will utilize used cooking oils to make soap.  And, the more we will get to a level where we can really protect the environment from the harmful effects of used oils, says Oden-Bella.

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