Marathon Bio-Diesel partners with Sanctuary Friends

Marathon Bio-Diesel partners with Sanctuary Friends

Waste oil donations now tax deductible

Jeff Lillie can’t understand why more Florida Keys restaurants won’t let him collect their waste vegetable oil.

Fortunately, he happened to walk into Fastenal where Keys transplant and green engineering guru Charlie Brown was working part time until he figured out his next step.

“We’ve done some great brainstorming together,” Lillie commended of his new business partner. “I’m now getting email inquiries from across the globe!”

Charlie Brown (left) and Jeff Lillie, owner of Marathon Bio-Diesel, Inc. show case the difference between regular diesel and bio diesel, how waste vegetable oil can be recycled into a reusable product with positive by-products like glycerin for making soap and finally what wastes can build up in a conventional petroleum burning engine.

Eight years ago, Lillie and his wife, Nancy, invested their life savings into a waste vegetable oil (WVO) processor that transforms cooking oil into fuel to run diesel vehicles, and Marathon Bio Diesel officially opened their doors to the public almost a year ago.

Though he’s signed on many restaurants and organizations across the county, Lillie admitted he’s still perplexed why more restaurants aren’t donating their waste cooking oil.

After being laid off from a California-based environmental engineering company, Brown’s now looking to build on what he’s calling the “Community Model” and has helped Marathon Bio Diesel partner with the Sanctuary Friends Foundation of the Florida Keys (SFFFK).

Not only are WVO donations now tax deductible through their partnership with the 501c3 nonprofit organization, Lillie’s company has agreed to make a donation back to SFFFK at the end of the year to help in their mission of supporting the preservation, restoration and sustainable use of the National Marine Sanctuary’s entire coral reef ecosystem.

County Commissioner and SFFFK Chairman George Neugent said as a former restaurant owner, the partnership between Marathon Bio Diesel and the Sanctuary Friends Foundation is a “win-win-win,” especially for the environment.

“This is something that Monroe County should be doing as its part to endure the future of our resource,” Neugent said.

Considering the number of restaurants across the Keys that fry up fish sandwiches and sell their used waste vegetable oil to out-of-county recycling companies, who then haul it off the islands in diesel-fueled trucks, Neugent said partnering with the private sector is beneficial for the entire county.

Lillie said many Keys restaurants, as any small business logically would, still focus only on their bottom lines.

But for owners like Mel Reger of The Wharf Bar & Grill on Summerland Key, she said Marathon Bio Diesel’s clean conservation research far outweighs any offer for waste vegetable oil pickup.

“The most recent offer I received was for $0.18 per gallon, so for me, it just didn’t make sense to worry about such an insignificant amount,” Reger said, who added that her restaurant no longer buys fuel for their tiki torches, but are instead using Lillie’s fuel with a few drops of a citronella oil she found online.

“We’re also just getting in to using his glycerin soaps [that are a bi-product of the WVO refining process],” Reger continued. “We have that in all of our sinks in the restaurant.”

In addition to the tax benefit for a restaurant donating their WVO, consumers of biodegradable diesel fuel in their vehicles can rest assured knowing that Lillie’s product is ASTM Certified to the highest global standards.

“When the agent came to certify my product, she told me not to be discouraged if my bio diesel didn’t pass, that 80 percent of the products out there fail to pass standards,” Lillie noted. “The standards for methanol in bio diesel is 0.2 parts per million; mine is 0.009.”

For restaurant owners and diesel vehicle drivers like Greg Chapman, that’s a “no brainer.”

Restaurants and Organizations currently donating their Waste Vegetable Oil to Marathon Bio Diesel include:

  • The Island Fish Company
  • Laurie’s Deli
  • Frank’s Grill
  • Keys Fisheries
  • Key West Seafood Festival
  • Sugarloaf Volunteer Fire Department Annual Fish Fry
  • DJ’s
  • Bud N Mary’s
  • The Wharf Bar & Grill
  • Key Colony Beach Fishing & Boating Club
  • Marathon Seafood Festival
  • The Crab Shack
  • Driftwood Pizza
  • Kaya Island Eats
  • Salty’s
  • King Seafood
  • Burdine’s
  • Zaza
  • Vineyard Community Church Annual Turkey Fry
  • Galley Grill

Marathon Bio-Diesel, Inc. is located at 2 Coco Plum Drive in Marathon. Call (305) 522-7655 to drop off your waste vegetable oil or fuel up your diesel vehicle. For more information, visit


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