Biodiesel 4 Schools initiative using Winnsboro company

Lucas Vance Staff Writer

August 24, 2013

WINNSBORO – Lexington-Richland School District Five, the District 5 Foundation for Educational Excellence (D5FEE) and Midlands Biofuels have signed an agreement to encourage local restaurants to sell their used cooking oil to Midlands Biofuels of Winnsboro.

As part of the new Biodiesel 4 Schools District 5 initiative, a percentage of the payment for each gallon of cooking oil purchased by or donated to Midlands Biofuels will be given back to the Foundation to be used for education grants and projects in the district. District Five is the first district in South Carolina to implement the Biodiesel 4 Schools initiative.

The signing took place Aug. 8 at Catch 22 in Chapin, a restaurant that has agreed to participate in the District Five program.

Midlands Biofuels, a Winnsboro-based company that produces biodiesel using cooking oils, will provide state-of-the-art collection containers and collection of the oil products. The agreement also allows fuel created by Midlands Biofuelsto be sold back to District Five at a discounted rate.

Restaurants will be the primary source of the used cooking oil, but individual residents who recycle their cooking oil at county recycling centers will also be included in the agreement. Owner “BioJoe” Renwick believes the program can make a huge impact, not only as a fundraiser but also in the form of savings for the school district.

“To take a waste product that most homeowners and most people around the state literally throw away or dispose of down the drain and to recover that waste oil and produce clean burning biodiesel that can fuel the school buses and the school district is just an amazing thing,” he said.

Superintendent Dr. Stephen Hefner said it was a great moment for District Five.

“The agreement we are signing connects many important efforts across the district,” he said. “It connects our desire to be as environmentally sensitive as possible, our desire to support the Foundation that helps support our teachers and students, our desire to have strong business partners and our desire to expose students to emerging career opportunities. We look forward to the many great things that will come from this initiative.”

District 5 Foundation President Paula Hite talked about the educational benefits and the possibility of creating career paths for students in the future.

“It’s a great effort to bring the community together. All of the money raised goes right back to the students,” she noted.

Over the next few months Midlands Biofuels will be spreading the “Biodiesel 4 Schools” program statewide. They are already servicing over 40 percent of South Carolina schools and recycling centers by collecting their used oil.

Renwick said he hopes to bring the Biodiesel 4 Schools program to every school because the fund-raising program returns much needed funds back to the school systems.

“It decreases fuel costs for school buses and also benefits businesses that choose to support it by paying them for their oil,” he said. “It is a win-win for everyone. I love the idea of this program and I am really excited to be apart of a movement that has a such strong foundation. This is a game changer for everyone.”

Renwick has grown his business through media relations with newspapers, radio and television. While interviewing by phone with The Herald Independent, Renwick was on his way to do a radio interview with NPR’s Mike Switzer for his S.C. Business in Review program. The interview will play in the coming weeks.

Cutting edge

The Biodiesel 4 Schools program is the first of its kind in South Carolina and is a brand new concept being developed nation wide. Renwick said his intention is to spread the program to every school district he is currently servicing.

“The program is in its initial infancy,” he noted. “But I look forward to transitioning this program to the other school districts in the state including Fairfield County.”

The agreement between Midlands Biofuels and Lexington-Richland School District Five was all about timing according to Renwick. He was contacted by the school district after the previous company that serviced them went bankrupt.

After obtaining the contract to collect the district’s oil, he told them about his Biodiesel 4 Schools program idea and it immediately drew interest. When asked if he would bring the program to Fairfield County, Renwick said he was excited to talk with the Fairfield School District as well.

“I’m extremely eager to begin talks with Fairfield,” he said. “The best thing about this program is that there is no down-side and everyone wins. I can’t imagine why anyone would say no.”