Preventing fats, oils and grease (FOG) from clogging up drains is a challenge that the catering industry still finds difficult to master. But through the science of bioremediation, technology could be used to manage the problem in a more effective and maintenance-friendly way, writes Peter Galliford of Mechline.
The biggest ‘fatberg’ in the UK, found submerged beneath the leafy London suburb of Kingston-upon-Thames, has focused minds on the problems caused by countless tonnes of fats, oil and grease being dumped down drains across the nation.
Members of the UK FOG Forum aren’t surprised that ‘fatbergs’ lurk below some of our major cities. As a member of the forum, representing CEDA, I recognise that caterers have unwittingly, in some cases, contributed to the problem that we face.
Some of the issues are down to education and training that we are working to improve. This is only the tip of the ‘fatberg’ if you take the whole of the UK into account. But we aren’t sunk yet as we believe that through the science of bioremediation, technology could be used to manage the problem.
According to Thames Water, Kingston’s “bus-sized lump”, weighing 15 tonnes, was so big that it had reduced the sewer to just 5% of its normal capacity and could have led to flooding, popping manhole covers and erupting toilets. It damaged 20 metres of sewer pipes and will take six weeks to repair.
The UK water companies spend millions of pounds to clear out our drains from FOG because people are not aware of the conditions on their own site, but if each site had an easy, meaningful treatment system that didn’t just send the problem down the drain but really eliminated it, the drains would be able to do their primary job of taking waste water to the waste water treatment plants for the right kind of treatment.
What is needed is a solution that treats the site’s drains for FOG. Mechanical systems for treating grease (grease traps) help, but unless they are correctly sized and positioned and constantly maintained they will allow untreated grease to escape down the drain.
For instance, typical kitchens have equipment such as dishwashers and combi ovens which release water at high temperatures, meaning fats, oils and grease remain emulsified and suspended in the water, effectively bypassing the grease trap only to collect further down the drain as they cool and reform, becoming thicker and thicker as time passes.
To be absolutely clear, bioremediation is the treating of waste with the use of micro-organisms (bacteria) that can break down undesirable substances.
With the right system, FOG is simply broken down with a bio-fluid administered via a simple dosing system that introduces a highly effective and safe multi-strain bio-fluid into the drains to help keep them free from blockage and the associated risk of backflow that could significantly affect a foodservice operation.
Local water authorities in the UK have been insisting on higher standards in drain maintenance, and bioremediation products could provide a compact, almost maintenance-free and, more importantly, very effective solution against FOG build-up — and in an environmentally-friendly formulation as well.
It is a requirement of building regulations that an effective means of grease removal be on site. Bioremediation meets this requirement and the added advantage is that it treats the waste water in the drains.
If your customer already has a grease trap, it could help their grease trap work more efficiently. If they only have a bioremediation system, it is important that it is a system designed to handle the variety of FOG in a typical commercial catering operation.
Ideally, it should use a multi-strain formulation and, where possible, the operator should see if the system has achieved any industry accreditations that provide evidence the system complies with the building regulations.
One such industry accreditation for the building and construction industry is the British Board of Agrément (BBA). It is an independent accreditation. Not all manufacturers seek independent accreditation and approvals like BBA. BBA certificates show how products comply and/or contribute to compliance with building regulations across the UK. It gives customers confidence that the products can be used without question for the exact purpose that it was designed to address.
Mechline sought BBA accreditation and approval for its GreasePaK product, and it is exactly the kind of solution that businesses in Kingston should be using to ensure the drains are being treated to cope with the variety of FOG going down them.
Utilising the most powerful, multi-strain, highly active formulation of its kind available in the market, the GreasePaK system is a biological drain maintenance solution designed to degrade fats, greases and starches found in commercial kitchen drains.
We recognise, as a manufacturer, the pressures on the operations and operators, and we recommend they engage with specialist grease management equipment providers who can assess their particular operational requirements and proffer the best solution for their operational conditions — it may be that one or a combination of systems is put forward to them.
For us, it is integral to our company’s direction that we observe and actively understand the issues facing the commercial catering professional and manufacture, specify or recommend equipment that makes the operational issues more manageable.
When it comes to grease management, Mechline specifically engineered GreasePaK to address effective grease removal. It is designed to be easy to manage, easy to install, effective and proven, hygienic and safe, and cost effective. If these conditions can be met, then it is more likely that good practice will be followed.
If the good ‘burg(h)ers’ of Kingston had been using GreasePaK, the ‘fatberg’ problem need never have arisen!
Peter Galliford is commercial director of Mechline, a pioneer in the field of grease management solutions and foodservice equipment for commercial catering operations. www.mechline.com