On the port of Château d’Oléron, behind the red wooden hut which houses the establishment “À la pêche aux mussels”, Emmanuel, Aymeric and Jonathan come to collect 200 liters of used frying oil, yellow plastic cans that they pile into their trusty Mercedes truck.

A waste “complicated to manage” during the tourist season when the mussels and fries flow freely, estimates the manager of the hut Boris Rabillon, 54, happy not to have to travel to the recycling center.

And then, “we have nothing to pay”, he underlines. A collection slip, a signature, and good riddance.

Founded in Oléron in 2007, Roule ma frite 17 recovers more than 100 tonnes of used cooking oil each year from around 340 restaurants and local authorities on the island or the near continent.

In a warehouse located in the Bassin de Marennes, it filters its “best oils” – the least dirty – and uses them for the benefit of the local economy, in the form of cleaner for the hulls of oyster boats or oil for chainsaws.

“Practical” ecology aimed at creating “new professions in the world of recycling and the circular economy”, explains the president of the association and hotelier-restaurateur Patrick Rosset.

Formerly thrown into the sewer, they polluted groundwater and altered the biological treatment of wastewater treatment plants.

“The Community of Municipalities of Oléron saved several thousand euros on the cleaning of the pipes the first year”, jokes Grégory Gendre, founder of the association and former mayor of Dolus d’Oléron.

The other part of the collection is resold to wholesalers and then to large refineries, which use it to produce the biofuel contained in the B7 or B10 diesel available at the pump.

Since 2012, restaurateurs have had the obligation to recycle their used oils. The latest minimum threshold set in 2016 is 60 liters produced per year.

Many players have therefore positioned themselves on this flourishing market, from small independent collectors to manufacturers.

If Roule ma frite 17 still has a “virtual monopoly” on the island, Patrick Rosset denounces the appetite of these large companies which “colonize the territory” by buying oils from restaurateurs, unlike associations which recover them for free.

Everything is good to take, from vegetable oils to animal fats.

With the soaring price of sunflower oil, which is close to four euros per litre, Boris Rabillon, in Oléron, has decided to switch to palm oil, which is cheaper, while others prefer to turn to beef fat.

In ten years, this appetizing market has known turbulent periods and the counters have exploded.

“In 2015, the buyback price per tonne fluctuated between 300 and 400 euros. Neither the Americans nor the Chinese recycled their used oils, recovered by biofuel players such as (the French) Total or Veolia”, says Grégory Gendre. .

But these countries finally found an interest in it, causing tensions on the European market.

The Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine did not help matters: “fewer fries, so less oil at the exit and bim, the 1,000 euro bar has been crossed”, he continues.

“Now it’s gold!” Says Patrick Rosset, to the point that used oil is now the subject of repeated thefts in France.

In Oléron, these facts are still rare but “individuals sometimes pretend to be us, to put it in their boiler or their car”, reports Mr. Rosset.

Roll in frying oil? Possible, but only on old diesel engines, poured pure or diluted in winter because it freezes at low temperature.

This practice is illegal in France – except for farmers, fishermen or local authorities – but some resourceful people are still fond of it, more so since the recent surge in fuel prices.

Moreover, the association’s old truck smells strangely of French fries when it starts up.