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Cheesesteaks, French Fries To Power Philadelphia? New Partnership Turning Restaurant Grease Into Green Energy

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Cheesesteaks and French fries to power Philadelphia? That's just what's happening thanks to a new partnership that's turning restaurant grease into green energy.

While this dirty liquid may not look like the future of clean energy, gallons of it are heating cities across America, including Philadelphia, from Two Liberty to Thomas Jefferson University.

"The term waste may be antiquated," Lifecycle Renewables CEO Rory Gaunt said.

"Our system in Philly is the second largest in North America, right behind Manhattan," Bill DiCroce, president and CEO of Vicinity Energy, said.

Fueling it all is food grease. More specifically, used vegetable oil, a staple to cook favorites in some of Philly's most famous restaurants like the Arancini and Papas Fritas at Barbuzzo in Center City.

"We reformat it and then we give that back to Philly in the form of energy," DiCroce said.

Every week, Lifecycle Renewables' collection trucks make their rounds to restaurant alleys to suction out barrels of what otherwise would be tossed in landfills or sewers. It's then unloaded at a Chester facility, where it's cleaned and processed into green energy for distribution through Vicinity Energy's two local plants and 40 miles of pipeline under the city.

"It can go straight to our plant to be burned as an alternative to heating oil," DiCroce said. "With no carbon footprint."

Together, Lifecycle Renewables and Vicinity Energy will recycle more than one million gallons of restaurant waste each year with a goal to be net-zero by 2050, and they're hoping everyone will take a bite out of this idea.

"Whenever you go to a restaurant or eat a Philly cheesesteak, you're going to become part of the greening story of Philly," DiCroce said.

CBS3's Alicia Roberts reports.

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