In some areas, the restaurant owners might be happy to have their used oil taken away without having to pay someone to do it, but in urban areas where there's competition between companies seeking to pick up and resell the oil, the companies pay the restaurants, so theft affects them both, USA Today reported Thursday.
The National Renderers Association is conducting an industry-wide survey to determine the amount of loss, an official said.
"Virtually all of our members who are in the business of picking up used cooking oils are experiencing grease theft to some degree or another, in some cases, pretty significantly," association President Tom Cook said.
David Miller, owner of the Kickin' Chicken restaurants in Mount Pleasant, S.C., doesn't know who made off with several thousand dollars worth of day-old vegetable oil from his seven stores.
He started noticing significant drop-offs in the monthly payment from the grease buyers and knew something was going on, he said.
"With all the different uses of grease and biodiesel, we've gotten some backyard grease chemists," he said. "And it's a commodity that is not normally protected. It's easily accessible, and therefore, people have been siphoning off grease."