So much is made of responsibly disposing of fats, oils and grease (FOG) in foodservice establishments, but much of the advice given is aimed at operators themselves. But what about distributors – how can they help to manage the process and ease grease disposal demands?
Filta Environmental is one company specialising in this arena, producing the Grease Master grease trap. Head of engineering Malcolm Higgins advised: “Catering equipment distributors need to be on the ball with FOG regulations to ensure their clients are within the law.
“With so-called ‘fatbergs’ becoming a serious problem, we are seeing ever more enforcement from water companies relating to sites not having effective grease traps or grease management systems.”
“As a responsible distributor, it’s imperative to stress to customers the importance of having the right system in place. They need to be clear that, as well as fines, they could face charges for cleaning and repairs to sewer networks, without mentioning the fact that drains choked with fat are costly to clear, as well as being a haven for pests such as flies and rodents.”
Underlining that there are different requirements for various water company regions, Higgins detailed: “We find kitchen designers will often add a dosing system to the specification as a default out of habit, but this may not actually be suitable for the building or region. It might be too small for their needs and output and, therefore, their client will not be compliant.
“Our FOG management systems are guaranteed to ensure sites meet legislation and each system is sized to meet an operator’s exact requirements, complete with a personalised maintenance schedule.”
He is also concerned that there is a lack of clarity on how to size a system correctly, while simultaneously water companies are becoming more specific in their requirements.
Welcoming the fact that many FOG treatment equipment companies are entering the industry, he believes: “It is widely viewed that grease removal units are the best innovation in recent years as they remove grease in real-time and, therefore, remain consistently high in their efficiency.
“The next innovation is how this recovered oil can be controlled, managed and re-purposed for energy generation. For instance, FOG collected from our GreaseMaster recovery unit has very minimal water content and is suitable for use in the production of bio-diesel, making it a very sustainable solution.”
Filta helps dealers find a technical solution to the FOG issue on a project-by-project basis, with Higgins emphasising: “Our team works with distributors, looks at the layout of the kitchen, drainage and connecting infrastructure and puts together a tailored solution. This involves sending over CAD blocks and supporting distributors with discounts. We also offer installation, commissioning and an ongoing service 24/7 across the UK, and beyond if needed.”
Over at Mechline, marketing manager Kristian Roberts analysed the equipment options for FOG: “A variety of technologies are available for foodservice operations to manage their FOG, which include passive grease traps, automated grease removal units, accredited biological dosing systems, or a combination of these technologies.
“However, confusion lies in the fact that incorrect advice is often conveyed to operators, namely that ‘they must install a grease trap’, which may not be the most effective solution for a particular site. A site evaluation should always identify the most suitable solution and whether one or more applications may be required to manage and/or treat FOG discharge from the kitchen operation. There is not one silver bullet solution, hence the need for a range of solutions including the multi-technology approach, as is recommended in the British Water Code of Practice.”
Roberts urged anyone involved FOG management to access and use this code of practice, which was developed with the support of CIEH, CESA, BHA, CEDA, and FCSI, to help designers, installers and resellers of catering equipment understand and compare the different options to reduce the discharge of FOG from foodservice kitchens.
Mechline’s own GreasePak drain dosing system can be used in conjunction with a grease trap or as a standalone unit. Roberts reported: “A few years ago we worked with Southern Water in a controlled year-long trial of GreasePak. Here they were able to eradicate a pub’s longstanding FOG issue, which was not previously achieved with the installation of a standalone grease trap. This highlights the importance for each site to have an evaluation 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.”
Nevertheless, he outlined that some water companies are rigidly defining the necessary action in FOG prevention as the installation of a standalone grease trap. “As a result some water companies are not receptive to the introduction of other technologies, which does not allow for the advancement of innovation,” he said, adding: “As water companies continue to see first-hand the benefits of embracing other technologies, we hope that the industry will work together to favour the most effective innovations and encourage manufacturers to explore new and better technologies.”
For ACO Building Drainage, divisional MD Andy Buchan shed some light on the background to FOG management technologies: “Historically, there has been limited academic and robust engineering research into the effective mitigation of FOG in the commercial kitchen sector. Product design has been based on historical knowledge and localised experience rather than evidence-based performance data. The lack of research in this area means there continues to be limited support for design and development, and this has hampered product innovation.”
But bringing the picture up to date, he continued: “More recently, academic research and user experience has informed knowledge-based development by product manufacturers. Information from Cranfield University has started to direct future innovation and ‘UK water plc’ initiatives to mitigate FOG.
“The market is very fragmented with a wide range of products including everything from EN1825 ‘specified’ grease separators through to active and passive grease removal units (GRU) and less complex grease traps. Additionally, there are a number of biological solutions which suit the requirements of end users with more limited kitchen facilities.
“While there is a huge range of products available in the market, product selection can be complex due to the lack of industry guidance and advice regarding performance criteria.”
ACO trades through a number of distributors to supply the market, with Buchan commenting: “Essentially distributors will provide what is requested by their client base. However, in the UK, building regulations do not mandate the use of FOG mitigation systems and it’s left to the commercial kitchen owner/end user to determine whether they install any form of grease management system. As a result, it’s recognised that only around 20% of the 400,000 commercial kitchens operating in the UK have any FOG management system in place.”
But in terms of what dealers should supply, he affirmed: “It is important to recognise that not all solutions suit all applications. The purchase of products must also be made alongside a servicing and maintenance contract in order to ensure the continued performance of any FOG management unit.
“ACO has developed a range of products which includes everything from large EN1825 grease separators to small grease traps to cater for as wide a range of applications as possible. We can also provide service and maintenance support as required.”
Elsewhere, Kingspan Water & Energy business development manager Daniel Damme warned that not all FOG management systems comply with EN 1825 standards. “It’s not helped by the fact that a number of organisations, including Ventilate, British Water, CESA and GCA have sought to take the lead on developing grease management standards.
“The enforcement of grease management legislation is starting to be driven by the utility companies who are now taking a stronger stance, using network protection officers and local enforcement teams to identify and resolve bad practices. Standards are now (somewhat belatedly) being tightened and fines are being increased for transgressors.”
On the subject of distributors’ knowledge of the appliances, he detailed: “In the past there has been an over-reliance on dosing packs, which generate recurring revenue and are simple to install but, to my knowledge, do not meet the requirements of EN 1825 legislation. Therefore, I have to say that there is a need for better education to help establish better practices in the market.”
He added: “Remote monitoring and sensor technology has advanced and is now being usefully employed to combat the issue at source; in this respect SmartServGrease has been something of a game-changer.”
Kingspan aims to operate as a one-stop-shop for dealers, delivering the product, recommending a professional installer who can ensure the product is correctly sized, plus the service packages for routine emptying of the trap as it fills up. Damme revealed: “We’re investing heavily in educating the foodservice supply chain through the Sustainable Restaurant Association and via CPD. We’re also investing in further product development and innovations, while ensuring all our products comply with international standards (EN, CE, ISO etc), so that customers know they come with a high quality assurance.”
At US-headquartered Frontline International, vice president Giovanni Brienza analysed: “So many establishments are still using antiquated and arguably disgusting collection methods such as dumping used oil and grease into a blue 55-gallon drum or into grease bins in their car parks. It’s not the safest or the best option. It’s foul to look at and to smell. But FOG management is still so new, people just aren’t always aware of the alternatives.
“In a closed-loop system, like the equipment Frontline manufactures, the used oil goes straight from the fryer to a secure collection tank, either via a direct-plumbed process or by using a wand that sucks the used oil from the fryer vat, holds it in a storage device, then empties it, via hose, into the collection tank. In this closed loop, oil is always contained.”
Fryers now come with alarms that sense the total polar material (TPM) of the oil, measuring the oil as it breaks down and alerting users when it needs to be changed. According to Brienza: “Not enough locations are adopting them. The innovation is there, but it’s not being embraced and implemented fast enough.
“We need to better promote the return on investment. Our systems pay for themselves, on average, in just 16 months. Our M3 data management system is a web-based monitoring system that ties in to every aspect of cooking oil use and disposal – how much came in, when, how quickly it was used, how much used oil was collected, how much went to the renderer, how much revenue was earned. It works across a single location or across an entire chain. It’s extremely useful information to have. The technology is out there – restaurants just need to embrace it.”
For dealers, he encouraged: “Every time a distributor specifies a fryer, he or she should also specify an accompanying system that makes sure oil doesn’t go down the drain.”
To assist, Frontline conducts training at its distributors’ premises and has a rep dedicated to the UK. “We’re doing what we can to change the mindset and help customers understand that collection and proper disposal of used oil needs to be a requirement for any professional kitchen,” said Brienza.
Separately, Aqua Mundus MD Kriss Ombler evaluated: “The UK FOG management market resembles the ‘wild west’. There is a need for stronger regulation, increased oversite, robust consumer protection and better standardised information for decision makers.
“The government’s current approach is vague and unsustainable, with foodservice establishment owners often getting caught out because of the poor advice and substandard equipment offered by many solution providers. Furthermore, no coherent regulations exist on monitoring and servicing of assets after installation. The disarray and confusion this causes, and the very real need for customer education and truly impartial customer advice, were key drivers for the founding of our business.”
He also had strong words on the topic of distributors’ knowledge: “Although they are committed to take the FOG regulations into account, their lack of understanding about FOG management prevents them from doing so. When dealing with kitchen catering suppliers, distributors and customers daily, we frequently come across confusion, misinterpretation and limited knowledge on the subject.”
Therefore Aqua Mundus aims to help dealers to understand the problem at its root cause. The supplier’s team is on the road seven days a week, investigating problems first-hand to ensure it specifies the most suitable solution for each project.
Ombler recounted: “I am personally involved in every new product that we launch, from SmartServGrease to the tailor-made solutions developed by ACO for London’s financial district for which we also provide 24/7 maintenance support. All this knowledge is passed on to our customers and given to organisations such as British Water in order to help improve understanding of the issues, shape future regulation and drive the development of practical solutions.”
CESA warns of confusion over FOG
There’s confusion in the foodservice industry over what can and can’t be used when it comes equipment to deal with the slippery issue of FOG (fats, oil and grease). CESA points out that, while there is no law stating that foodservice establishments need to fit a grease management system, there is legislation making them responsible if a sewer is blocked due to discharge from their establishment.
CESA has had reports from members about the contradictory attitudes of the various water companies, and the fact that some approve of certain FOG management equipment, while others don’t. This inconsistency is adding to the confusion.
Essentially there are three types of FOG management equipment: grease separators, grease removal units (GRUs) and biological/bacteria based dosing systems. All three can be effective individually although, in many cases, two or even all three will be used together to maximise their impact. There’s no ‘one size fits all’ solution: the constraints on a new build versus an existing site and location issues mean that the best system, or combination of systems, for dealing with FOG will be different in each case. Provided the system is effective, it’s legal.
Going forward, CESA expects FOG to become part of the ‘food waste as a resource’ topic. Indeed, the association has made this point to Defra as part of the consultation on food waste.
CESA director Keith Warren said: “The confusion about the legal situation relating to the technologies available to manage FOG are causing real problems to both operators and equipment suppliers. The water companies need to get their act together and work with the foodservice industry to get a grip on the grease issue. Meanwhile, equipment manufacturers are continuing to work on new methods of turning FOG from a problem into a resource, and that is undoubtedly the future.”