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Monthly Archives: February 2020

  • Getting Ahead of Spring Cleaning – Review your Grease Management

     

    Running a busy catering business has many demands that need to be met. Not only do you need to provide the best service to your customers, but you must also ensure that your premises and in particular, your kitchen, is up to standard. However, sometimes, with the demands of a busy business, some of these routines can be delayed or missed such as dealing with the way you handle fats and grease.

    With Spring fast approaching, it is the ideal time to review procedures like your grease cleaning schedule and see what measures need to be improved.

    Why is Reviewing Grease Management Procedures Important?

    All areas of a busy kitchen need to be closely monitored and regularly reviewed. Not only is this important for the health and safety of your customers and staff, but it is also a legal requirement under HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points).

    It is vital that all the equipment that is used in the kitchen is cleaned effectively to remove fat and grease. It also ensures that any risk of fire is greatly reduced due to residual fat or grease.

    The best way to ensure that fat and grease is removed responsibly is to set up a Grease Management Procedure that can then be used by your staff. This procedure sets out the cleaning schedules needed, what cleaning substances can be used, and when oils should be changed and disposed of safely.

    There are several areas of the kitchen that need to be monitored, not just for cleaning purposes, but also to ensure the procedures are followed during cooking and washing up.

    Grease Traps

    Stainless steel grease trap

    One of the most important pieces of equipment in the kitchen when it comes to grease management is the grease trap. The Water Industry Act 1991 stipulates that it is a criminal offence to permit anything to enter the drainage system that may impede the natural flow of the water. If you allow fat and oils to enter the drainage system, this can cause blockages. These blockages are also an offence under the Food Safety Act 1990, so it is vital that you ensure you have a grease trap fitted, and that it is properly maintained.

    A grease trap is attached to the wastewater outlet from the kitchen area and is used to separate out fat and oils from the water. Periodically, the grease trap needs to be emptied and the waste matter disposed of in the correct way.

    It is important that workers do not treat the grease trap as a food disposal unit, and remove food and residual sauces and oils from plates and equipment before washing.

    Oily Foods

    Food that leaves oil is common in a restaurant because of dressings and the cooking process in general. However, this oil should be kept out of the grease trap and indeed the kitchen pipework and drains whenever possible. If there is a substantial amount of oil, then this needs to be disposed of in a food waste bin before the plates or equipment is rinsed and washed. Any that does make its way down the sink should be intercepted by your grease trap and prevented from travelling further into the drainage system.

    Cooker and Fryer Oil

    The oil that is used in a fryer or a cooker needs to be changed periodically to ensure it remains clean and fresh for the customer. Disposing of the waste oil is important, as it must be removed and processed in the correct way.

    There are many commercial recycling companies that will take your used oil away and dispose of it safely. Used oil must be poured into sealed containers and stored safely until it is collected. This includes any oil or FOG collected by your grease trap and removed during routine cleaning and maintenance.

    Scraped FoodDirty plate with knife and fork

    Any food that may be left on a plate, must not be washed down the drain. This can cause a blockage in the wastewater system and lead to problems with the grease traps and drainage systems in general.

    Food should be scraped from plates and cooking equipment into a bin or compost container where it can be safely collected and disposed of according to local requirements. Any residual sauce or oil from dressings should be wiped from the plates with a paper towel before being rinsed and loaded into the warewasher.

    There should also be a drain cover placed in all the sinks so that food particles are trapped before going down the drain.

    Cleaning

    Part of the grease management procedure is to regularly carry out a cleaning schedule in the kitchen. This is important for many reasons:

    • To eliminate the risk of fire from grease and oil near cooking equipment.
    • To ensure no contaminants are left on surfaces
    • To prevent the build-up of bacteria
    • To stop any fats, oils and grease (FOG) from entering drains

    The cleaning schedule needs to take into account all areas of the kitchen where oil or grease may collect. This includes:

    • Fans and Cooking Hoods
    • Walls
    • Floors
    • Under cookers and storage units
    • Ovens and fryers
    • Grease trapsCleaning spray, cleaning liquid and cloths in bucket

    Surfaces can be cleaned with hot water with detergent, and then cleaned with a disinfectant to ensure bacteria is not present.

    Cookers and ovens will need to be cleaned with a degreasing agent. It is important to follow the instructions carefully to prevent damage to the equipment.

    Grease traps need to be cleaned when they are a maximum of 25% full in order to remain effective at trapping FOG. This can be carried out in-house or by a professional depending on the type and size of grease trap installed.

    The cleaning schedule needs to be regularly updated and records kept so that any inspectors that check your kitchen can see that regular cleaning is taking place.

    Top Tip: Remember that the water used to wash any greasy surfaces will have an element of grease in it afterwards. If disposing of this water down the sink, an element of FOG will go with it. Make sure you have a grease trap in place to catch this waste.

    Staff Training

    One of the most important parts of the grease management process is staff training. It is important that all staff that work in the kitchen are suitably trained to follow the procedures so that you can maintain a clean and safe kitchen. Some of the areas staff will need training are:

    • Food safety, so that they cook and prepare food correctlyWashing hands in water in a sink
    • How to use cooking equipment in the kitchen so that they are safe and no contamination occurs
    • Personal hygiene rules such as wearing hair covering and washing of hands
    • Learning the cleaning procedures and knowing which cleaning chemicals to use in what areas of the kitchen.
    • Understanding the importance of grease management with regards to FOG.

    This training may need to be reviewed and refreshed if there are changes in the legislation if a new piece of equipment is installed and indeed with every new start employee.

    Running a commercial kitchen requires a lot of organisation and discipline to make it work efficiently. By training your staff to follow procedures and ensuring they are kept up to date, you can help keep your business compliant and safe.

  • The True Cost of a Grease Trap

     

    Grease traps are currently in use in kitchens across the country, intercepting fats, oils and grease (FOGs) before they make it out through waste water pipes and into the sewers, where they’ll form fatbergs over time.

    The FOG problem is pollution pure and simple: fatbergs make sewer overflows more likely and so make it more likely that raw sewage will end up being sent straight in our waterways. A high quality grease trap, maintained in good working order, can be relied upon to help stop such overflows from happening – cutting down on the environmental costs of our national love of fried fast food.

    What’s more, a good trap can be relied upon to protect you from financial penalties: as each berg costs water companies £100,000 to remove and, increasingly, those costs are being passed onto food businesses deemed to be at fault.

    All in all, grease traps are great. But many people are still asking: are they really worth it?

    For those who are new to the FOG issue, the price tag seems huge.

    So, let’s break it down. Starting with:

    The Big Buy

    Stainless steel grease trap

    The price tag on a new grease trap set-up will vary immensely, depending on the size of the GT, the number you’ll need, the quality and the type: whether manual or automatic. You might be spending anywhere from just over a hundred pounds for a very small and flimsy manual trap to thousands for an automatic trap in a size more suited to a full restaurant.

    Want to know how to work out how much a grease trap will set you back? Here’s a quick guide:

     

     

    • Size

    To work out the size you’ll need, you need to work out your waste water output. If your pipes are properly installed, you’ll be able to find this out with ease: by checking your waste water pipe diameter. Decide what size grease trap you need and get a trap which can handle your flow.

    • How many traps do you need?

    If you’ve got multiple waste water pipes which don’t come together within your kitchen, you may need to buy a couple of traps rather than just the one. While this will double your price tag, it’ll be cheaper than reconfiguring your piping.

    • Quality

    While the start-up costs may be greater, a higher quality trap will last far longer than one with flimsy components in the same conditions. Take the GreaseMaster GM50, for instance: it weighs in at £2,600 including VAT, but comes with a life expectancy of over ten years. Split that start-up price up over its life span and £260 a year for premium grease management doesn’t sound so bad.

    • Type

    Manual stainless steel grease traps are cheaper than automatic traps. But while manual traps are passive – they’re just a box which slows the flow of waste water long enough for the FOG and solid matter to separate out from the water – automatic traps will actively strain the waste water to remove the solids, making it easier to collect and dispose of them. This extra expense makes clean-up quicker.

    How Do I Know If I Should Get a Manual or Automatic Grease Trap?

    Up-Keep

    To ensure your trap keeps keeping your FOG out of the sewer for as long as possible – you’ll need to treat it kindly.Cleaning spray, sponge, bowl and rubber gloves

    You’ll need to clean it. Automatic traps collect FOG in a separate container that is easily accessible and convenient to clean. Passive or manual grease traps require more input. Once they are 25% full of FOG, grease traps stop working as effectively and they’ll start letting some fats, oils and grease slide on into the sewers. To keep passive traps working optimally, you’ll need to crack yours open once a month (at least), scoop out the FOG and solid waste and scrub that box until it shines.

    This regular cleaning isn’t without its costs. Doing it yourself will save you money, but you’ll still have to pay for equipment, which you’ll need to pump the waste out of your trap, and for grease disposal. The cost of in-house time and labour spent cleaning also needs to be factored in.

    If you have some extra money to spend – say £2,000-4,000 per year – you might want to go with the pros instead. Saving you the hassle, booking in professional cleaners on the same day each month can also help ensure that your grease trap is scrubbed out and checked over by experts like clockwork – many cleaning companies even charge surcharges if your trap is over 25% full, giving you an incentive to ensure that you look after it well.

    That incentivised GT care can mean that, in the long run, disasters are averted and you save yourself a fortune in emergency repairs.

    If you want to step-up your FOG game even more, you may want to add some add-ons.

    Add Extras

    GreasePak Biological Drain Maintenance System GreasePak Biological Drain Maintenance System

    Adding well chosen extras to your grease management arsenal is a great idea but bear in mind that going the extra mile can cost a little extra, too.

    Bio-dosers are all the rage right now with two types currently available – those which work on your drains and those which work on your traps. They all work in essentially the same way: by regularly releasing a dose of fat-digesting bacteria which coat the walls of your pipes or your trap. These bacteria then begin to break down the FOG around them, ensuring that your traps take longer to fill up and so ensuring that your FOG waste is even less likely to end up in the sewer.

    Adding a bio-dosing set-up to your grease trap will cost you a couple of hundred pounds to start with and then around £600 a year in re-fills. Meanwhile, adding a bio-doser to your drains will cost around £500 in start-up costs and then around £400 a year for refills.

     

    How Does the Cost of Getting a Grease Trap Compare To Going Without?Calculator with sheet of calculations and pen

    Looking at the priciest options: a high-end trap will set you back around £3,000 and, with a top-of-the-range drain bio-doser at around £500 and the best professional maintenance, you’ll be looking at £3,500 total start-up costs and then £4,400 a year – a total of £7,900 for your first twelve months of first-rate grease management. Ongoing annual costs thereafter will obviously be less as you already have the equipment in situ and the only thing required is maintenance.

    That sum pales in comparison to the fines we’ve seen handed out for fatbergs, ever since a Cambridgeshire Chinese restaurant was fined nearly £16,000 for poor grease management in 2006. While there have been some restaurants who have got away with less, the colossal £400,000 fine Thames Water handed out last year to a food factory suggests that fines for fatbergs will only be getting heftier in the coming years.

    While the cost of a grease trap can seem sizeable, the costs of going without can be catastrophic for any small business – not to mention the environment.

  • Could Oil Banks Help to Fight Fatbergs?

     

    Fats, oils and grease (FOGs) are still making it down our drains and into our sewers where they cool and coagulate, mixing with wet wipes and other solid matter to form fatbergs over time. Not only do these fatbergs make it much more likely for our drains to overflow, sending raw sewage straight into our waterways, but each fatberg also costs £100,000 for water companies to remove.

    Fatbergs are a big problem. Luckily, there are many ideas and inventions currently at work attempting to stop them from popping up.

    Besides the trusty and traditional grease trap, food businesses can now indulge in add-ons such as bio-dosers, which use chemical or bacterial mixtures to break down FOG in drains or in traps.

    Meanwhile, water companies are spreading the word not only amongst food businesses but – fully aware that household FOG waste is a major contributor to the fatberg problem - amongst the general public too. As a result, we now all know not to flush anything except the 3Ps (pee, poo and paper), and we all know that pouring FOG down the plughole is never a good idea.

    And many more initiatives have gone a step further - by making it easier for members of the public to properly dispose of their fats, oils and grease. Recently, we’ve seen councils across the country encourage people to store up their FOG in plastic bottles and put it out with their food waste on collection day.Blue recycling box drawing with green bottles

    But there may be another method of FOG waste collection which we’ve seen tried out in the last few years, and which may yet prove a powerful force in fighting fatbergs:

    Oil Banks

    Back in 2015, Sainsbury’s teamed up with Scottish Water, Olecco and Zero Waste Scotland to figure out how to get the public recycling oil.

    Together, they set up a trial-run of cooking-oil collection banks in the carparks of seven Scottish Sainsbury’s in Leven, Kirkcaldy, Linlithgow and Edinburgh. In one of the first attempts to introduce oil banks, customers were invited to deposit their household fat, oil and grease waste in plastic bottles and dump them into the big bins the next time they visited for their weekly shop. The oil was then sent off to be converted into biofuels.

    Two years later, in 2017, Norfolk City and South Norfolk Councils teamed up with Anglian Water and Living Fuels to launch a similar initiative called Keep It Clean. Their trial-run saw an initial five cooking oil banks set up in supermarket car parks across the two councils’ jurisdictions which were then joined by six more. Again, customers were encouraged to collect up their FOG and dispose of it properly.

    It Did Not Go To Plan

    While the format was familiar – similar recycling banks for clothes and other waste are a common sight across the country – the users of the Norfolk oil banks didn’t quite catch the brief.

    The Living Fuel workers tasked with emptying the oil banks began to find gas canisters and bits of broken glass in amongst the bottles of FOG. With the threat to health and safety evident for all to see, all eleven of the waste oil banks were removed, and the trial-run was abandoned.Empty glass bottles on floor

    It was a set-back. In fact, it was a set-back so severe that the idea of publicly accessible oil banks seems to have disappeared altogether. But, given the space of years it may be time to ask:

    Why Did Oil Banks Not Work?

    One answer may be promising for oil bank fans.

    That is: they didn’t work because too few people knew what they were for. It was a lack of awareness which led to them being closed down.

    Too few cared about FOG. Understandably: few have time to consider the implications of their FOG output or to wonder where the waste which goes down their drains eventually ends up.

    That’s why the signs on the banks were not obeyed – and why foreign objects strayed into the wrong trash pile. The public were not ready for easily accessible fat, oil and grease disposal.

    But, one day, will they be?

    Could Oil Banks Return?

    Oil banks may still be an idea worth pursuing.

    In the long-term, if public awareness was the issue, they could make a return once more people know about the FOG problem – once recycling fats, oils and grease becomes as commonplace as recycling paper and plastic is now.  While, as with most public recycling banks, misuse will remain inevitable, once more of the public are on-side, misuse will become less frequent.Green recycling banks with man recycling

    In the meantime, the idea could still be handy for areas which are densely packed with small food businesses.

    While fast food chains can easily handle the costs of having their FOG waste picked up by professionals on a regular basis, smaller food businesses can struggle to put together enough money on their own to make such regular pick-ups feasible.

    Creating commercial cooking oil banks, accessible only to local businesses who are clued up and conscious of good grease management practices, could offer a solution. While many small food businesses already pool their FOG waste on an informal basis, pitching in together to have their fats, oils and grease picked up at the same time, commercial oil banks could formalise these local networks and make them easier to set up where they don’t already exist.

    Oil banks could make grease management easier for the small food business owner. And making management easier is crucial if we’re going to find a solution to the FOG problem.

    Providing accessible banks for small businesses struggling to make ends meet could just bring those teetering on the brink of not bothering with a grease trap onto the right side of the fight against fatbergs. And with them onside, spreading awareness amongst their customers and community, more of the public will get clued up, too.

    Oil banks may not have worked in the recent past, but, working alongside the classic grease trap, Oil Banks Could Still Be The Future. 

  • Rethinking the Usual Suspects

     

    Fatbergs seem to be forming everywhere. Across the country, fats, oils and grease (FOG) are slipping and sliding down drains and into our sewers where they cool and solidify into huge sewer-blocking masses over time.

    These discoveries have left many wondering: who’s to blame?

    Everyone’s got an idea of who to point the finger at, but, as with any finger-pointing, the reality is often more complicated than it seems.

    Let’s look a little closer.

    The Usual Suspects

    If the finger is being pointed anywhere, it’s being pointed at fast food businesses.Fish and chips in paper

    Fast food joints get a bad rap. From the chippy on the high street to the Chinese on the corner, these businesses crank out deep fried mains, snacks and sides.

    They clearly use more cooking oil than any other small businesses. And, because they use the most oil – everyone assumes – they must be the worst FOG offenders and the plague of fatbergs we are facing must be down to them.

    But, with an awareness of fatbergs on the rise, more and more fast food business owners are facing up to the FOG problem and their own environmental, legal and even moral obligations. They’re getting clued up and it’s clear why: being in the know is good for business.

    Vito oil filtration cleaning used cooking oilFor one, cooking oil itself is costly. So, most fast food businesses use sophisticated oil filtration – cleaning their cooking oil regularly so that it can be re-used, over and over, the maximum number of times. In this way, fast food businesses not only give their profit margins a boost, but they also reduce their FOG output.

    And then there’s the risk of water company fines. Fatbergs cost water companies over £100,000 each to remove and those costs are increasingly being passed onto those businesses which are deemed responsible, in the form of fines.  Fast food joint owners know that when a fatberg is found near them, water company inspectors will come knocking on the doors of local businesses – and they’ll start with the chippy.

    Knowing this, most fast food business owners are sure to keep their grease management GBPump fitted next to sink with a grease trappractices up to scratch. They install high quality grease traps and they clean them out regularly, while sometimes throwing in a few add-ons, such as bio-dosers, which further reduce the risk of their businesses allowing stray fats, oils and grease to make it into the sewers.

    Increasingly, the usual suspects are becoming ever more conscious of the FOG problem and doing what they can to tackle it. People are realising that their initial suspicions of takeaways and fast food joints being the origins of troublesome fatbergs are being challenged.

    Anyone Can Contribute to the Fatberg Problem

    The fats, oils and grease which are necessary to form a fatberg can come from anywhere.

    One example:

    • Canteens

    At the end of 2019, a fatberg the size of three elephants was found beneath Strangeways prison in Manchester. The culprit: the prison canteen. While an individual meal may require only a small amount of oil to be used, and produce only a small amount of FOG waste – that FOG waste adds up if you make three meals a day, seven days a week for nearly one and a half thousand people.

    The same is true for the canteens attached to hospitals, office blocks, universities and schools. Without good grease management, these large kitchens feeding huge numbers of people numerous times a day will end up sending tons of FOG down the drains.

    But at least these kitchens are staffed by professionals. Those pros are more likely to be up to date on the issues facing the industry – and, therefore, they are more likely to be doing something about the FOG problem.People cooking in commercial kitchen

    The same cannot be said for:

    • Households

    As the 64 metre fatberg found in the quiet seaside town of Sidmouth showed us, a town doesn’t need to be bustling with huge numbers of FOG producing food businesses to produce a berg. A town of retirees can do that pretty much on their own.

    It can be confusing and complicated for members of the public to get rid of their used cooking oil. So, much of it ends up being poured down the sink through sheer convenience. As households are also very unlikely to have a grease trap or indeed any other grease management solution, that FOG goes straight to the sewers.

    An individual household’s FOG output is small, even over a year, relative to a small business. But, added, up, the FOG output of a town or city of residential homes can be huge.

    Add to that the impact of the wet wipes which many people are still flushing down their loos without a second thought – sending them into the sewers where they become key to the structure of fatbergs – and it is clear that the general public play their part in creating the FOG problem.

    But few people think they do anything which could be helping to cause the monstrosities in our sewers, after all, their input is so small it can’t be making a difference, can it?Woman cooking in kitchen

    Which brings us onto:

    • Coffee Shops

    As Britain becomes a nation of coffee drinkers, with a café on every corner, vast quantities of waste coffee grounds are being produced. Coffee grounds don’t break down.

    Ideally, they should be sent to the compost heap, but, in the rush and hurry of a coffee shop, this can seem like just a little too much work – some of those grounds will inevitably be sent spilling into the sink.

    We don’t yet know whether they really do help produce fatbergs, because the study of fatbergs is in its infancy. We only know that it is unlikely that those coffee grounds and other small solids do much to help the situation.Coffee grounds

    Cafés may be just another example of how we all, often unwittingly, contribute to the fatberg problem in our own way.

    So What’s the Answer to the FOG Problem?

    It’s not just down to the usual suspects behaving badly. In fact, as those usual suspects begin to behave much better than everyone else, the fingers are beginning to point at the rest of us and the usual suspects are actually the unusual suspects.

    We all need to take our FOG responsibilities seriously. That means businesses getting tough on grease with more grease traps and bio-dosers, and more regular cleaning and maintenance routines. It means households getting to know how to avoid putting FOG down the drains and it means catching any solid matter before it enters our sewers by installing something as simple as a sink strainer, at home and at the office.

    Solving the fatberg problem requires teamwork – do your bit today.

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