Embracing the circular economy - Oakland is showing what the future of cities looks like / Article by Neste

Case story

4 minute read

Embracing the circular economy - Oakland is showing what the future of cities looks like

The City of Oakland, situated on the east side of San Francisco Bay in California, has a strong record in environmental leadership and is widely considered one of the greenest cities in the U.S. Using waste as a resource, Oakland is on track to meet its sustainability and climate goals, thus setting an encouraging example for other forward-thinking cities across the globe.



City of Oakland

  • In the top ten of green and sustainable U.S. cities.

  • 3,375 MT Greenhouse gas emissions prevented from entering the atmosphere per year with the help of a circular economy.

  • 750,000 pounds An estimated amount of used cooking oil collected in the first three months of the waste-as-resource program.

3 challenges the City of Oakland wanted to solve

1. Reduce carbon emissions In 2020, Oakland adopted a comprehensive strategy to address environmental, social and climate justice issues by reshaping the city’s transportation sector. The city’s biggest goal was to reduce carbon emissions by nearly 60% by 2030, compared to 2005 levels.

2. Run a green fleet

The City of Oakland has one of the greenest fleets in America. The city’s municipal fleet and machinery – garbage trucks, street sweepers, generators and many other vehicles – are fueled with cleaner burning, low-emission Neste MY Renewable DieselTM.

3. Become the greenest city in the U.S. To accomplish the goal, Oakland started fueling its diesel-powered vehicle fleet and machinery with renewable diesel already in 2015, a low-emission fuel made from waste materials such as used cooking oil, grease and rendered fats. The city has since embarked on an even more ambitious collaboration in order to become the greenest city in the U.S.

Switching to renewable diesel is the best investment any business or city could make.

Libby Schaaf, Oakland Mayor


Oakland switched to renewable diesel in 2015, a decision driven by the City’s goal to stop burning fossil fuels and achieve carbon neutrality. Next step was to close the loop by using waste as a resource in order to create a circular economy, collecting and recycling used cooking oil, grease and other waste materials from restaurants, hotels, airports and other venues within in the city.

The city’s transformative journey has been made possible by Neste and its local partner and renewable diesel distributor Western States Oil (WSO). WSO collects the used cooking oil, grease and fats from more than 110 local Oakland restaurants. Neste, in turn, purchases and converts this waste into renewable diesel, which is then provided back to WSO, eventually fueling generators and other pieces of equipment operated by the City of Oakland.

“The overall process to integrate this system was efficient and helped our overall operations. During the 25 years I’ve been in the fleet industry, implementing the circular economy model has been one of the easiest sustainability initiatives,” said Richard Battersby, Assistant Director at City of Oakland Public Works.

“Not only have we greatly enjoyed working with both Neste and WSO, but we have also taken a big step closer towards a low-carbon economy, while simultaneously adding a multitude of benefits to our residents, businesses, infrastructure and planet.”


After just one year, the City of Oakland saw the positive impact of the circular economy: air quality improved, and every year, 3,375 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions are prevented from entering the atmosphere.

More importantly, these benefits did not cost the city – or taxpayers – a dime extra.

With the circular economy, Oakland is setting an example to the world by showing how to affordably fight climate change and air pollution, enhance public health, support local economic development, and help mitigate the health and environmental justice issues emanating from pollution exposure, which greatly burdens low-income communities.

“Our partnership has made ‘from city waste to city fuel’ a reality, and has, in turn, improved the lives of the people in the city. Oakland’s choice of making local waste part of its energy solution sets an example for all of California, for the U.S. and beyond,” says Jeremy Baines, President of Neste US.

The City of Oakland believes that a circular economy can play an important role in facilitating a more sustainable future, and is therefore encouraging other cities and businesses to start looking at their own waste as a resource.

Now, Neste and WSO stand ready to help other cities and businesses across California and beyond to follow in Oakland’s footsteps by starting to run their fleets and equipment on renewable fuel made from their own waste.

In the 25 years I’ve been in the fleet industry, implementing the circular economy model has been one of the easiest sustainability initiatives.

Richard Battersby, Assistant Director. City of Oakland Public Works