Treating fats, oils and grease (FOG) in commercial kitchens is likely not the first consideration for distributors and kitchen design houses when discussing layout and equipment choice on a project. But many FOG treatment equipment suppliers argue that it should definitely be at the forefront early in the design process.
For instance, First Choice Group Environmental Solutions’ project manager Martin Allen advised: “The initial starting point should be prevention by the overall management of food waste and grease generation within the whole kitchen environment.
“Prevention can only be achieved by best practice when considering preparation – reducing waste at the very start of the production process. Find out how the customer currently deals with food waste and grease management to assess the strengths and weaknesses within the site. Consider local authority bylaws and restrictions that may affect any decisions as to what type of equipment may or may not be acceptable for use.”
According to Allen, well over 350,000 sewer blockages occur each a year and 70% of these are FOG related. “Any issues of this type that have been experienced by the client will have created considerable cost; this means with careful planning and the right solutions in place considerable savings can be made for the customer,” he detailed.
“It’s an old cliché but there is no silver bullet for dealing with FOG and food waste. Kitchen design, working procedures, staff training and investment in the right equipment all play their part in removing and reducing the FOG and food waste issue.”
For dealers wanting to know more about grease prevention, Allen suggested they get involved with the British Water FOG Forum and conferences that can introduce them to useful industry contacts. “Industry organisations such as CEDA and CESA along with the FCSI have all supported the above in promoting awareness of the serious nature of food waste and FOG issues,” he said. “CESA in particular can point any industry-related party in the direction of a number of companies that offer various solutions.”
Allen believes that a sound FOG management process should include considering waste and FOG reduction at the start of production. “There is software available that can monitor this to access how savings and reduction can be achieved. Furthermore, install grease dosing or catchment equipment, usually fitted after sink traps or warewashing equipment, to ensure blockages do not occur. Grease traps should be installed at the end of the line before the FOG leaves the kitchen; these however must be emptied and maintained on a regular basis for them to be effective and these would be a standard requirement on a new build.”
Over at Mechline, marketing manager Kristian Roberts recommended: “Catering equipment dealers need to consider all the various technologies available to a particular kitchen site and advise on the most appropriate solution for that site. Simply offering a solution is not enough – this needs to be effective. A site evaluation should be carried out to identify the most suitable solution, tailored for that specific kitchen. Only through the use of the correct FOG management technology and guidance and on-premises staff training can FOG entering the kitchen drainage system can be dramatically reduced.”
He continued: “Whilst basic passive traps have traditionally been regarded as a stock answer to the issue, it is very often the case that in many situations they may not be suitable or practicable. The effectiveness of any grease trap is dependent on the correct sizing/volume capacity and location of the grease trap system, temperature of discharge and detergent levels.
“Other options include automated grease removal systems and accredited biological dosing systems. Biological dosing systems can act as supportive complementary technology or as standalone systems. Key considerations in any product review should be the numbers and range of bacteria to deal with the complex nature of FOG structures in the fluid, the meeting of all standard safety criteria, and that the dosing systems are automated with the operational interface.”
Roberts believes that the best method of FOG treatment is one that is tailored to the needs of a specific site. “In some circumstances a multi-technology approach maximises the removal and treatment of FOG,” he explained. “The ‘best’ technology, or combination of technologies, depends on an interplay of factors, ranging from menu type, scale of operation, equipment used, building design, accessibility and more, as detailed by British Water in its Code of Practice (2015).”
He feels: “GreasePak, manufactured by Mechline, is a great, versatile option that can be used at sites with varying needs, either as a standalone option or as a supportive complimentary technology within a multiple equipment configuration. As the only BBA-accredited biological dosing system, GreasePak employs the most powerful bio-enzymatic fluid on the market, which breaks down FOG into irreversible compounds that cannot reform down the line. The time of dosing and dosing level can be adapted to meet the specific needs and style of cooking of a particular site and a built-in alarm system reminds operators to change the bio-fluid, making maintenance easy and trouble free.”
For IMC MD Steve Witt the most important consideration for dealers is to “understand the issue at hand, ie, is it FOG, food waste or a combination of the two? Also, make sure you understand the local regulations before approaching multiple manufacturers as this will help to ensure that the advice you are given is part of a suitable solution.”
However, he cautioned: “I’m afraid one solution does not fit all. From separators to traps, from digesters to dewatering, the issue may not be that straightforward. In some cases it may need a series of combined solutions or it may be that a simple solution is all that is required.
“Food waste is a principal source of FOG and the best way to manage food waste is to treat it at source. Along with grease traps, dewatering units not only assist with the removal of food waste but they also facilitate FOG removal from the waste stream, preventing this from becoming an issue further down the system. As well as removing food waste from the pipelines, dewatering causes FOG to bind to the food during the process and, depending upon which disposal process is used, such as composting and/or anaerobic digestion, this FOG-laden recovered food waste can be a very valuable resource.
“Furthermore, implementing a waste management system that incorporates a dewatering system not only recovers the waste from the pipeline, avoiding potentially costly blockages, it also reduces the volume of kerbside collection by up to 80% with an average payback of under 2 years.”
He understands however that: “The situation is not helped by the fact that catering equipment dealers are consistently being given inaccurate information by competing manufacturers, local authorities and government think tanks.”
Witt detailed that although IMC’s systems are always fitted upstream of a system designed to manage FOG, the new generation of IMC dewatering machines remove, in some cases, “30% more FOG” than the old system, which is designed to ensure that during the dewatering and recovery process FOG is also captured, assisting in the overall management process.
Elsewhere, Goodflo feels there are a number of key variables when dealers are considering and specifying effective a long term FOG prevention solution. According to MD Russell Fraser: “A good start point is to establish the kitchen’s expected average daily meals production. Along with the type of food prepared this will help estimate the potential volume of FOG from the wastewater wash-up.
“An outside underground grease trap is ideal, however, where location or outside space is restricted, an in-kitchen solution close to the pot wash, the main source of FOG wastewater discharge, is often the best alternative. grease removal systems (GRU) will require a power source and separate water supply along with essential daily maintenance by kitchen staff. A passive grease trap plumbed directly to the pot wash wastewater discharge requires no electric or separate water supply and is a commonly adopted solution.”
He urged: “Available space and capital cost are often other primary consideration, however, with a range of products available to suit most budgets, consideration of running cost, on site staff cleaning, access for maintenance, odour issues and compliance are other key questions to ask.”
For his part, Fraser believes that: “The most effective and compliant method of prevention is the removal of FOG at source before the kitchen wastewater enters the public drainage system.
“Drain blockages, foul odours and pest infestation are all potential results of allowing FOG to enter the drainage system from the commercial kitchen daily wash up. The result can be interruption to the kitchen food preparation, health, safety and hygiene risk for customers and staff as well as potential enforcement or prosecution.
“A grease trap or grease removal system installed to serve the wastewater discharge from the pot wash area is the best method of removal and provides the greatest protection from problems associated with the build up of FOG in the drainage system.”
Fraser thinks that dealers should: “Find a reliable and trusted specialist grease management business partner that offers a broad range of product solutions, keeps up to date with industry developments and can provide in-house technical, installation and customer grease trap cleaning and waste removal. This partnership is more likely to ensure a more considered approach to product and service recommendation and with post purchase back up and on-going support.”
Goodflo itself has just updated the offerings for its G-Bag grease trap system, as it is now available in a high density polyethylene (HDPE) casing. It has also just launched an updated range of underground grease traps starting from a compact 100 suitable for smaller kitchen operations through to 12,000litre, and larger traps suitable for food manufacturing sites.