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Monthly Archives: October 2019

  • To Flush or Not to Flush

     

    For decades, the toilet has been one of the safest and efficient ways to dispose of waste matter. With time, waste matter from our bodily functions stopped being the only thing we flushed down toilets. Currently, we are more likely to flush other offensive and unimportant items down our toilets because it is fast and efficient.

    This also includes products which we are quite unsure of how to get rid of. A good example is wet wipes and sanitary pads. For years people have believed that products such as wet wipes and sanitary products are ok to flush. Some of the products even came with packaging indicating that it was okay to do so.

    This has led us to blindly flushing them down into the sewer with no thought as to where they go and what happens to them after. Now we know!

    toilet cubicles

    The Effects of Flushing

    What we flush has been building up unobserved, resulting in massive fatbergs that are only just rearing their ugly heads and causing issues that are affecting our lives above ground. A report in 2019 indicated that wet wipes cause 90% of blockages in the UK.

    These blockages and back-ups are over-spilling and churning out into public water systems with more than 20,000 wet wipes appearing on the shores of the River Thames in a 2-hour cleanup process. One particular reason for this is that most of the UK use a 29th century sewage system. It is smaller and can hardly cater to the increased demand caused by the increasing population.

    While wet wipes are meant to perform some of the tasks that can be carried out using toilet paper, they are not tissue paper. Wet wipes are made using chemicals and resins which prevent them from easily tearing apart when you use them. Additionally, they are meant to remain wet to prevent them from disintegrating when in contact with water, unlike tissue paper.

    This makes it easy for them to get caught in the sewage systems which contribute to the formation of fatbergs. When they do eventually break down, the chemicals used to make up the plastics get into the environment.

    The wet wipes also contain synthetic fibres like polyester and polyethylene which have been found to affect other organisms such as wildlife. Animals found to ingest such pollution in the form of microplastics have experienced blood poisoning, hormone imbalance and have had issues with their reproduction.

    Their testing, especially the European standards of testing also only factored their ability to get flushed down the toilet without causing household blockages. However, wet wipes also need to be biodegradable. This allows the wet wipes to break down in the sewer system.

    Measures Taken to Address Flushing of Wet Wipes

    The issue surrounding wet wipes has been massively discussed in the media. This saw the creation of the ‘fine to flush’ campaign.

    The main objective of the campaign is to not only educate the public and give them peace of mind that they’re not contributing to the problem but also to salvage the reputations of companies that for years have been saying it is fine to flush their products.

    What is the Fine to Flush campaign?

    The Fine to Flush campaign was solely created to address wet wipes and their contribution to fatbergs. It allows the creation of an official standard that identifies which wet wipes are actually fine to flush without causing adverse effects to the environment.

    Wet wipes must undergo strict testing to receive certification. One requirement is that they must break down quickly enough so as not to cause blockages in the drainage systems. They also must not contain harmful chemicals which will affect the environment. Under the rules of the Fine to Flush campaign, manufacturers must have their products tested to determine whether they meet the required standards.

    Fortunately, some brands in the UK have taken the initiative to produce flushable wet wipes that have no adverse effect on the environment. For example, Natracare is the first UK brand to carry the symbol claiming to be ‘truly flushable’ and is 100% plastic-free.

    On the Safe Side

    Everyone is busy educating about FOG, with commercial kitchens understanding the implications of poor grease management and the importance of investing in, installing, maintaining and cleaning grease traps.

    However, these are not the only contributors to fatbergs in the UK’s sewer system. The efforts to ensure that commercial kitchen owners act responsibly won’t protect against wet wipes. In order to tackle all areas of fatberg contributors, measures need to be taken in order to combat the whole problem head-on.toilet paper

    One of the safest ways to prevent fatbergs is still to remember the 3 P’s rule. Only flush pee, poo and paper. In instances where wet wipes need to be used, or if you’re thinking of putting something down the toilet, be sure to look out for the ‘fine to flush’ logo.

    Wet Wipes are Our Responsibility

    Wet wipes are an incredibly important (and convenient) part of our lives. They are compact and easily portable allowing us to carry them everywhere. They help us maintain hygiene standards without the stress of looking for or having to carry water. However, we need to be responsible in regards to the kind of wet wipes we use and how we dispose of them lest they create an even bigger problem to the environment in the future.

  • What Size Grease Trap Do I Need?

     

    Grease traps are an important addition to any commercial kitchen. Their work in limiting the amount of harmful waste that ends up in the drainage systems and consequently the environment can never be overstated.

    Every year, millions of litres of wastewater get dumped into the drainage system in the UK alone from activities carried out in commercial kitchens. On the same thread, water companies spend millions clearing blockages caused by fatbergs which are as a direct result from the FOG introduced by this wastewater from the commercial kitchen.

    To prevent this from happening, authorities have introduced laws, regulations and guidelines that involve the usage of grease traps in any commercial establishment serving food. While this isn’t compulsory at present in England, it is strongly advised and will likely become a legal requirement (as it is in Scotland) very soon. You could pay hefty fines for failure to use the appropriate grease traps as directed by your local authorities.

    Given the importance of a grease trap to your business and the environment at large, it is important for you, as a commercial kitchen owner, to understand what kind of grease trap you need and the appropriate size for maximum effect.Water in a sink

    Picking the Right Size

    Grease traps do not come in one universal size, the same way, not all commercial food establishment are equal. Therefore, you need to understand what size of the grease trap is most ideal for you.

    The work of the grease trap is to slow down wastewater coming from the outlet of the sink of dishwasher long enough for it to cool down. The grease can then separate from the water before the water flows out.

    Picking a smaller or bigger grease trap could cause overflows or back-ups in your drainage systems. Both of these outcomes are bound to create a mess you do not want to have to handle in your commercial kitchen. The kitchen would need to be shut down for deep cleaning, resulting in unexpected down-time and loss of profit. It might also lead to the FOG being released into the drainage system thus rendering the grease trap ineffective and your business at risk of prosecution.

    The grease traps you will be using are sized according to the rate of water flowing in gallons per minute (GPM). This flow will further be determined by the number of sink outlets and applicable equipment such as glasswasher and dishwashers in your commercial kitchen. Therefore, the more flow of water you have the bigger your grease trap should be.

    This is then calculated against the grease trap’s capacity to determine how much waste it can handle at any particular time. Here are some of the calculations you will have to do for your grease traps.Calculator

    Pot Washing Sinks

    To calculate the flow rate;

    • First, start by multiplying the length by the width and depth of your sink in inches. This gives you the capacity of the sink in cubic inches.
    • Then convert these cubic inches to gallons per minute in order to get the flow rate. You will do this by dividing the cubic inches by 231.
    • Adjust for displacement i.e. the actual capacity of the sink that you will be using, by multiplying it by 0.75.

    Your math should look like this

    L x W x D to give you X as the capacity of the sink then X/231 to give you Y as the flow rate in gallons per minute (GPM). Then Y multiplied by 0.75 to give you the size of the grease trap you will need for your commercial kitchen.

    In the event you are using multiple sinks in your establishment and one grease trap;

    • Calculate the flow rate for each individual sink
    • Take 100% of the largest flow rate, 50% of the second largest and 25% of the rest and add them together.
    • The flow rate you get is what’s recommended for that particular grease trap.

    Stainless steel grease trap

    Dishwashing machines

    Normally, authorities require that dishwashers have individual grease traps. They are different from conventional sinks since their capacity is clearly indicated.

    • For machines with a 10-15 gallons capacity, use a grease trap that can handle at 15 pounds or higher.
    • 20 to 30 gallons require a grease trap that can handle at least 20 pounds.

    You do not have to carry out all these calculations for your grease traps alone. You could simply seek advice from a reputable grease trap supplier or from the local water company who will carry out a site visit and advise on the appropriate grease trap, including advising you on other factors such as the cost-effectiveness of the items.

  • How Do Water Companies Know Who’s Caused a Fatberg?

     

    Fatbergs can be the fault of particular food businesses or they can be a community effort.

    How do water companies know the difference?

    Sometimes we can only know after the berg has been autopsied: it was only after the recent Sidmouth fatberg was cut up, sorted through by hand and then tested that we found out that the berg wasn’t the fault of an individual restaurant, but of a collective effort on the part of the locals.

    More often than not, however, the water company’s job is much simpler:

    They Follow The TrailPerson looking through pipe

    While many have an attitude of out-of-sight out-of-mind when it comes to Fats, Oils and Grease (FOGs), down below it can often be crystal clear where the gunk is coming from.

    FOG deposits often line the walls of the sewer from the fatberg back to the polluting drain.

    After walking the length of the trail (or after sending a camera into the tight spots), water company workers only have to trace the problem drain to street level to find their prime suspects.

    And Then?

    Those suspects will be inspected.

    If the inspectors find that a restaurant’s kitchen has a fully functioning grease trap and if there is evidence of good grease management practices (such as record keeping and regular cleaning schedules), they will be crossed off the list of suspects.

    If a food business is found without a trap, however, that business will be much more likely to be held responsible for the nearby berg.

    If you are suspected of contributing to a fatberg, however:

    You May Not Be Fined Straight Away

    Green pound signBack in 2017, Thames Water found that 95% of food outlets in Oxford, visited as part of a research project into awareness of the fatberg problem, did not have grease traps installed and were not practising satisfactory grease management techniques.

    Water companies know that many food business owners are simply unaware of the impact FOGs have when they are released into our sewers. And, as many food businesses regularly fork out hundreds of pounds to clear blockages caused by FOGs in their own pipes, water companies also know that it is in the interests of the food business owner to know how to prevent fats, oils and grease entering their drains.

    So, water companies’ first step when they find an offending restaurant is to educate: inspectors will hand out leaflets and posters; they’ll talk about the impacts of FOGs and fatbergs on our waterways, and they’ll advise business owners on what kind of trap to invest in.

    Only if a food business is found, over an extended period of time and through a series of follow up inspections, to have failed to heed the warnings of the water company and change its ways

    Goslyn GOS40 GRU Goslyn GOS40 Automatic Grease Removal Unit

    will the water company fine the food business.

    And those fines can be hefty, as the record £420,000 fine handed out to Hypergood Ltd. proved in early September – after the company had, for 11 months, ignored the warnings and

    advice offered by Thames Water.

    But, Before The Inspectors Need To Come Knocking…

    Get on the right side of the fight against fatbergs.

    Get in the know, get an automatic GRU or a manual grease trap and you’ll be just fine.

  • The Number 1 Thing People Don’t Consider When Starting A Food Business

     

    You’re there: you’ve bought your ingredients, your ware washers and your deep fat fryers, you’ve rented your premises and, after an intense brainstorm, you’ve come up with a great name and a fantastic strategy to attract punters to your brand-new food business.

    But, if you haven’t factored one thing in, your gloriously constructed plan might be fatally flawed.

    What is the one thing people don’t consider when starting up a food business?

    Fatbergs

    Dirty dinner plate

    The scourge of our sewers, fatbergs build up slowly from an accumulation of Fats, Oils and Grease (FOGs). These FOGs come from our kitchens: from the residue on plates, which gets washed down the drain while we wash up, to the used oil which is improperly disposed of because no-one knows what to do with it.

    Once in the sewers, the FOGs solidify into masses which catch all sorts of gory details, from wet wipes to faecal matter, and block the sewer – making it more likely that raw sewage will end up spewing straight out into our waterways.

    And that’s not all. On top of the environmental cost of fatbergs, there’s a financial side, too.

    Not only does it cost water companies a huge amount of money to remove fatbergs from sewers, but they also face fines when they don’t work hard enough to prevent the associated Gold pound signspill of raw sewage into rivers and streams.

    Those fines have been stepped up in recent years: back in 2017, Thames Water was fined a gargantuan £20.3 million by the Environmental Agency after a huge leak of 1.4 billion litres of raw sewage into the Thames and its tributaries.

    And that stepping up means there’s also been a stepping up of the fines which water companies, in turn, have been handing out to businesses deemed to be responsible for fatbergs. Just a couple of weeks ago, Thames Water fined the Chinese food company Hypergood Ltd, which trades under the name Royal Gourmet, a record £420,000 for allowing FOGs to enter the sewers.

    The fatberg problem is getting serious and water companies are getting serious about it, and that means that food business owners new and old need to get on the right side of the fight before they and the environment pay a hefty penalty.

    How do you solve the fatberg problem? 

    Get Clued Up and Get A Grease Trap

    If you are new to the issue, firstly you need to find out more about fatbergs and their effects on the environment. Then, decide on the right grease trap and what size grease trap you need, get it installed and learn to keep it clean and working efficiently. This will start your business on the right path to begin your fatberg free journey.

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