John Cádiz Klemack/Kevin Dahlgren
Recycling companies and restaurants are on alert for a new and unlikely threat facing business: cooking grease theft. John Cádiz Klemack reports from Pasadena for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 21, 2014.
It can’t be eaten or reused, but kitchen grease is fueling a major crime spike in Southern California.
Much like copper, inedible kitchen grease, or IKG, has a commodity value and a full truck load of the used cooking oil could fetch as much as $600 at a grease recycling center.
A gallon of the grease is worth about $2.50, according to a corporate security expert who requested to remain anonymous because those behind the thefts he’s investigating have made death threats.
"This is more than just a few casual thieves stealing cooking oil randomly," he said, calling the rings "well-organized."
Restaurants and companies are losing millions of dollars due to theft and container damage by grease thieves, who syphon the slippery gunk from storage containers at the rear of restaurants, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture.
Aside from the business loss, officials said grease theft is a potentially hazardous to the environment because as thieves transport their loot, the oil could leak and spill onto streets and into soil.
California Assemblyman Chris Holden is sponsoring a bill to levy heavy fines for those trying to steal used kitchen grease. Right now, it’s an unregulated industry.
Authorities have outlined what witnesses should look for if they suspect IKG theft:
A $500 reward has been posted for information leading to the arrest and conviction of IKG thieves.