WINNSBORO — Midlands BioFuels owner Joe Renwick, along with his staff, was presented with the 2013 “Spare the Air” award on Wednesday.
Nearly 100 people showed up to the award ceremony at the Midlands BioFuels plant on Congress Street in downtown Winnsboro.
The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control recognizes environmental leaders (i.e., companies, groups, communities, schools, local governments and individuals) that have made a voluntary commitment to promote and practice air quality improvement in South Carolina.
Former winners to receive the award include Bosch Anderson (2012), Boeing (2011), Bridgestone (2009) and Lexington Medical Center (2008).
Midlands BioFuels has been open since 2008 and was recognized by DHEC because the company helps reduce pollutants everyday.
“What we do everyday reduces both ground water pollution from waste vegetable oil getting into creeks and streams and backing up sewer systems, so we reduce that as an environmental problem. And then the fuel that we produce reduces air emissions and air pollution. So that is the big reason why what we do as business has such a massive impact on our environment. We are reducing waste in the water as well as pollution in the air,” Renwick explained.
Based on a normal monthly production of 10,000 gallons per month, Midlands BioFuels reduces 188,000 pounds of carbon emissions each month.
Based on that 10,000 per month average, Midlands BioFuels produces 120,000 gallons per year and reduces 2.25 million pounds of carbon dioxide in the air each year.
Renwick noted that the plant is only producing half the amount of which its capable.
He wants people in the community to know that his company needs donations to keep up with the high demand.
“We need oil,” Renwick stated. “We need vegetable oil donated.”
Homeowners everyday throw oil in the backyard or down the drain and Renwick requests that homeowners bring their oil to Midlands BioFuels, so his company can turn it into bio diesel.
The company already has an overwhelming demand and now just needs oil to supply that demand.
“I don’t need another person to come here to try and buy fuel because we already have demand for that,” Renwick noted. “Our biggest problem is getting the oil in order to make fuel.”
Renwick noted that the City of Columbia runs a portion of its vehicle fleet on the bio diesel produced at Midlands BioFuels.
“They (City of Columbia) run bio diesel in their garbage trucks in the downtown area of The Vista and Five Points and that bio diesel is made here,” he stated.
Five percent of all the bio diesel used at the University of South Carolina is made in Winnsboro as well.
Next month, the company will make its last payment on the original business loan from First Citizens Bank.
“I’d never built a bio diesel plant before, but we have now and its running really good,” Renwick said. “Its been an interesting progression with what we’ve come up with and we’ve done it very different from what other plants have done. We are on a much smaller scale, but we’re much more sustainable.”
In 2008, Midlands BioFuels was one of seven plants in South Carolina operating. The only plant still operating besides Midlands BioFuels is located in Charleston — Southeast Bio Diesel.
Additionally, Renwick noted that his company is set apart from other companies because it is the only company in the state of South Carolina that collects oil, makes fuel and then sells that fuel back within the state.
“We are the only one doing this,” he said. “We don’t have a competitor. We’re the only plant that does all of this in house.”
Southeast Bio Diesel has to buy the oil pre-processed and then they make the fuel and sell it.
U.S. Congressman Mick Mulvaney made his first visit to the plant since 2011 for the award ceremony.
“It has been so neat to watch this business grow,” Mulvaney noted. “I get excited about people who are passionate about what they do and everybody will walk out of here knowing Joe (Renwick) is passionate about this (bio diesel).”
Mulvaney emphasized the importance of the businesses like Midlands BioFuels.
“This is an important part of our future, because this is part of a bigger overall development,” he said. “There is no more waste anymore. Everybody is in the business of waste management. There is no more waste, there is only energy and money. The question is how can you take what you used to throw away and turn it into money. This (oil) is stuff that we used to throw away. This is really cutting edge and entirely new industry.”