This Chemist in Cameroon Recycles Used Cooking Oil to Make Cleaning Products

Martial Gervais Oden-Bella's process turns used cooking oil into soap, stopping it from polluting drains in Africa.

16.12.2019 | by Kezia Parkins
Photo by Daniele Levis Pelusi on Unsplash
Photo by Daniele Levis Pelusi on Unsplash

Martial Gervais Oden-Bella, a chemist in Cameroon, has developed a process to turn something dirty into something that cleans. 

VOA reports that Oden-Bella came to his circular solution after startling reports from hotel officials that showed the huge amount of oil their businesses were wasting. Many were pouring the oil down drain pipes, which then works to damage water treatment systems, pollute the environment and harm animals.

Inspired to solve this problem, he developed a process that could clean used oil and transform it into soap, liquid detergent, washing powder and shampoo.

The process involves filtration of the oil and preparation of a caustic soda solution which is cooled before being added to the oil to start the saponification phase.

Once production is complete, soaps and detergents are distributed to hospitals, laundries and back to hotels.

Martial Gervais ODEN BELLA

Chemist Martial Gervais Oden Bella: Image via LinkedIn

Oden-Bella perfected the system and launched production in 2014 out of his company GIC Bellomar. Now, business is in full swing, producing 165 kilograms of soap and two tonnes of liquid detergent every month.

The soap is made in Biotex Laboratory, which is led by environmental scientist Frantz Tafongang.

Tafongang told VOA that hotels in Douala alone produce about 20,000 litres of waste oil each month.

He said that the recycling operation reduces pollution while creating new and valued products.

Oden-Bella, who is determined to continue to reduce the amount of oil being thrown away, is calling for more public education to show people how used cooking oil can be recycled into useful products.

His detergent-making team is made up of university students involved in the environmental sector and through GIC Bellomar, he is also engaged in training young job seekers, retirees, and farmers and organises training sessions around the continent of Africa on recycling techniques, especially around plastics.

“Our platform has so far trained nearly 1,264 people from 31 countries in two online training sessions open to everyone,” Oden-Bella explained to Sputnik France.

Since January 2018, the company has also set up an e-learning platform on which it distributes online courses on the manufacture of hygiene and maintenance products and on the recovery of plastic waste.

As well as reducing the environmental impact of ditching oil, the entrepreneurial chemist is proving that his soap making solution can create jobs as well.

“The use of these used frying oils contributes to reducing the production costs of these soaps and detergents and thus allows the development of artisanal soap making, a source of employment for many people who have run out of life projects”, says Oden-Bella.

Aside from making soap, Oden-Bella has also created a machine called the hydrodistillator to extract essential oils from plants and citrus peels.

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