Since 2007 Grégory has been developing a dynamic system in Oléron, the region where he collects cooking oil, filters it, transforms it into a biofuel, and promotes its local use for the scenic railway or fishing machines. All community stakeholders are involved, share the same values, and are collectively building a virtuous circle where they all gain various economic and communication advantages. Professional members (i.e. restaurants, camping businesses, and oil suppliers) benefit from the free collection of their oil (versus paying 0,23 EUR per litre at the local waste center), access to a cheap biofuel, and advice to globally improve their environmental practices (i.e. reducing cooking temperatures, not using palm oil, and better sorting methods). They are also able to promote their social responsibility to their clients and partners. Furthermore, local authorities work with the association as a partner to develop new solutions for environmental protection, raise awareness, and handle the huge growth in the island’s population during the tourist season (where the population grows from 30,000 to 300,000 people). Local authorities have a direct interest in recycling oil since 20,000 EUR (US$28,256) are paid each year to clean the sewer pipes, clogged by oil. They also benefit from promoting environmental innovation to locals, tourists, and students. For example, they promote the association’s social awareness programs on environmental issues; workshops in school, shows and plays in tourist sites, and on local TV. By building communities around recycling, further positive actions are set up and continue to drive a cycle of local awareness, change, and improvement.
Oléron and the surrounding region are now recognized as environmentally innovative and exemplary sites. This recognition facilitates the spread of Grégory’s innovative model. Since the beginning, while building the first recycling community, he created the conditions to spread his idea nationally. Grégory partnered with a research and development laboratory, Valagro, to jointly lead experimentations and validate them scientifically. This professional partnership has yielded great results: Monitoring the amount of collected oil has demonstrated the system’s impressive capability and for the first time in France, the use of naturally filtrated oil-fuel in vehicles is permitted. This unprecedented decision will facilitate the implementation of oil recycling projects in other regions, and open doors to experimenting with recycling innovations based on waste issues sourced by the affiliated communities.
To build his network of affiliated recycling communities, Grégory has established selection criteria and designed a turn-key replication methodology, the Kit Huileo. Grégory relies on three types of existing organizations to spread his model: Environmental COs, professional groups, and local authorities. The package they buy as affiliated members offers them a 15-day training, all the materials to quickly collect and filtrate oil, and ideas for community management. Starting with cooking oil is an easy way to launch a local recycling system and allows the network to have at least one common project to share nationally. However, Grégory also pays attention to developing the creativity of the local communities and encourages them to think of new products and services to recycle particular local waste or to use the recycled products. Members then make the new initiative possible by working with the R&D lab and sharing best practices. Currently, the association is half financed by local government and half by revenue from membership fees, the sale of oil, and TV programs, among other income-generating schemes. Already, Grégory is launching five new local recycling communities in France, demonstrating that community members themselves can control and reduce their environmental footprint.