Johnson is hoping to gain the support of the UK's biofuel industry to create processing plants where an estimated 44 million litres of used cooking oil produced by London's restaurants and takeaways each year could be turned into biodiesel.
While the move is expected to have environmental benefits, restaurant owners, many of whom pay for used cooking oil to be collected, could also find themselves better off if the scheme takes off.
"With demand stimulated we envisage that used cooking oil will have a value that can be passed on to the producer," a spokesperson for the Mayor of London's Office said. "How much restaurants would receive would depend on how much they produce, their location and who collects from them, but the worst case scenario would be it would be collected free of charge which would still save restaurants money as they currently pay to deal with any waste they produce."
Vehicles running on biodiesel are said to produce 25 per cent fewer carbon emissions than those running on traditional fuel and it is thought that a new plant, when complete, could convert up to 28 million litres of waste oil a year, providing 20 per cent of the fuel for London’s bus fleet.
Johnson said: “There is huge potential to unlock the value in used cooking oil from London’s bustling food industry and turn it to our economic advantage. By capturing it right here in London and turning it into biodiesel we could provide 20 per cent of the fuel needed to power London’s entire bus fleet while saving thousands of tonnes of CO2 and creating hundreds of new jobs.”
The mayor's vision, outlined at an event at City Hall last week to members of London's catering sector, collectors and processors of cooking oil and bus fleet operators, would have to be realised by the private sector, but a spokesperson said the Greater London Authority was on hand to give support and had already created a demand for the fuel.
Currently there are a small number of biodiesel processing businesses in the capital with the vast majority of the low carbon fuel being processed in the north of England and Scotland. The mayor's vision would create the capital's first biofuel refinery.