Finns turn Christmas ham fat into 2,600 gallons of renewable diesel

The "Ham Trick" was a success for clean fuel, wastewater, and charity.

If you spent Christmas in Finland, maybe you heard about Neste's ham fat collection drive. Called "Kinkkutemppu," which translates into the very magical sounding "Ham Trick," the campaign involved setting up collection containers around the country where people could drop off the fat leftover from their Christmas hams. The Finland-based oil company then collected the drippings to refine them into its own brand of renewable diesel.

In all, Neste collected about 26,500 pounds of ham fat, which yielded 10,000 liters (more than 2,600 gallons) of fuel, with up to 90 percent fewer lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions than petroleum-based diesel. Neste notes that this is enough fuel to circumnavigate the globe four times over, but missed the opportunity to point out that you could tack on another three laps with the right driver and vehicle.

In addition to providing cleaner fuel, diverting fats from going down the drain is helpful for wastewater systems. Food fats are notorious for building up in pipes, which can cause sewage to back up into homes and streets – an expensive inconvenience for homeowners and a public health issue if it makes its way into storm drains and waterways. As such, the Finnish Water Utilities association partnered with Neste for the campaign.

The Ham Trick was a success. It diverted food waste, powered vehicles more cleanly, and raised awareness about renewable fuels. While Neste admits sourcing fats from individual homes isn't commercially viable, the hope is that will soon change. In the end, Neste sold the its renewable diesel at its stations, raising $15,600. Rather than adding that to its bottom line, Neste donated the proceeds to Hope, which helps low-income families, and Icehearts, a sports program for socially excluded youth.

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