Men collecting 'gutter oil' flee police

SINGAPORE - Two men extracting used oil in Toa Payoh on Monday morning bolted when police approached, Lianhe Zaobao reported.

The boss of the company the men work for claimed that they held a licence from the National Environment Agency (NEA). But the name of the company, Oil Village Singapore, was not found on the agency's list of licensed waste collectors on its website, the Chinese daily said.

There have been several reports of such instances of oil collection, including one of a man and a woman extracting waste oil in Jurong West. The NEA is investigating these reports.

At about 7.50am on Monday, the police received reports that two men were collecting used oil from the sewers near the market and food centre at Block 74 in Toa Payoh Lorong 4.

When police officers arrived at the scene, the men ran away.

Ms Feng, who operates the drinks stall at the food centre, said that the men ran right past her stall. "I was taking coffee to a customer when I saw a man fly past, then another man following close behind. They looked like they were running for their lives. Three or four policemen were after them."

She also said that men have been collecting waste oil every week or so, but she did not know if they were the same men.

"They come usually at 6am with long tubes and a metal drum. They finish siphoning the oil in 10 to 15 minutes, and leave before day breaks," she said.

Other hawkers at the food centre said this has been going on for about a year, and the extraction leaves a stench, but they always thought the men were legitimate waste collectors.

It was only when reports of "gutter oil" surfaced that they became worried. "Gutter oil" refers to used cooking oil reclaimed from drains which is re-used after being filtered.

Zaobao understands that the men escaped the police's pursuit, but their boss, Mr Huang, was questioned on Monday afternoon.

Mr Huang told Zaobao that his company has been around for 10 years and is licensed by the NEA. He claimed that its oil collection is legal, and the waste oil is sold to Malaysian companies to process into diesel fuel.

Asked why his workers bolted, he said they were worried they would be "beaten up" when they saw "a group of people" approaching.

The NEA said that there are about 60 companies licensed to collect waste oil in Singapore, and they are required to use a vacuum truck to collect the oil. The environment agency said that there have not been any reported cases of hawkers using "gutter oil" for cooking in the last five years.

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