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Monthly Archives: March 2020

  • Top 10 Tempting Things to Flush that You Know You Shouldn’t

     

    In the UK, we have the benefit of having an effective and efficient waste system. Unlike some other, less developed countries, the Victorians made great strides to ensure that sanitation was improved. Many of the sewers in London today are the same as those built in Victorian times, but this has led to some people taking this system for granted.

    There has been a lot of advice over the past few years, encouraging both businesses and domestic properties to only flush what they call the three P's - Pee, Poo and Paper. This is because there has been an increasing number of incidents of un-flushable items ending up blocking sewers such as the famous ‘fatbergs’.

    As a business, it is important to know what you can and cannot flush down the toilet and sinks, because there have been a number of companies fined for allowing FOG (Fat, Oil, Grease) to enter the wastewater system. However, it is important that domestic premises also follow these rules to avoid any potential problems with the water supply and do their bit to prevent fatbergs from forming.

    Here is a list of the top 10 tempting things to flush that you know you shouldn’t.

    1. Wet wipes, paper towels, tissuesKitchen rolls

    Another major issue for sewers and sewerage treatment plants is wet wipes and other paper products other than toilet tissue. The problem with these products is that they often contain amounts of plastic which don’t dissolve properly. These include wet toilet wipes that claim they are flushable.

    It is important that nothing apart from toilet paper is used in the toilets, and that paper towels for drying hands has a separate rubbish bin for people to use. It can also help to have signs placed on the walls reminding people not to throw paper towels in the toilets.

    1. Sanitary wear

    One of the biggest issues for the physical plumbing structure in buildings is sanitary wear. These products are designed to absorb and swell and this then leads to them blocking the pipework running from the toilets to the outside sewers.

    For businesses, the provision of sanitary bins in toilets will help to eliminate this issue. For domestic properties, women should be encouraged to wrap used sanitary products in paper and then place them in a bag and put in it the household refuse.

    1. Cotton buds

      Cotton ear buds

    Cotton buds are often used when applying makeup or for cleaning out ears. These have in the past, been made from a thin plastic stem, with cotton wool on each end. Although more companies are now switching to paper stems, they are still not easily broken down in the water. Another concern is that they can get lodged in the sink U bend and cause a blockage.

    To avoid these from entering the sewers, they should be placed in the refuse after use, even if using the paper stem variety.

    1. FOG down the sink

    FOG, or Fat, Oil and Grease, is a huge problem in sewers around the country, but can also be a big concern for businesses. Under the UK Water Industry Act 1991, and the Building Regulations Part H (Drainage and Waste Disposal) 2002, companies have a responsibility to ensure that a suitable grease trap is installed and maintained.

    Water companies have the ability to seek compensation from companies for issues relating to fat, oil and grease if they can prove the contaminants came from their business. It’s vital for foodservice businesses to install grease traps that will prevent any fats or oils from entering the wastewater system.

    Fat should be scrapped into a refuse bin, or recycled according to local regulations. Oils can often be recycled, so the local authority should have details of the process that is needed.

    1. Coffee grounds down the sinkPortafilter with coffee grounds

    Coffee grounds might look like something that will cause no issues if emptied down the sink, however, this is not the case. Unlike other foods, coffee grounds expand and absorb in water which can clog the smaller pipes in the sink.

    To avoid this, it is essential that coffee grounds are emptied into the refuse, or into a compost bin.

    1. Condoms

    Condoms, both new and used are designed to be resistant to tearing and damage. This means they are often made from latex and other materials that do not break down. Flushing these down the toilet can not only cause an environmental problem, but they can also fill with water and other debris and block sewers and wastewater pipes.

    Condoms should always be disposed of in the refuse the same as sanitary products.

    1. Cigarette butts

    Although there is now a ban on smoking in public places, there is still a real risk ofCigarette butt cigarettes entering the wastewater system and causing harm. Cigarettes are comprised of a filter made from cellulose acetate, the paper contains rayon and the tobacco contains, nicotine, carcinogens and many other toxins. This combination can be extremely hazardous to wildlife and also cause major concerns for the wastewater treatment plants.

    There should be a cigarette bin located outside where smokers are allowed to smoke. For domestic properties, butts should be placed in sand and then thrown out with the refuse.

    1. Chewing gum

    As you might imagine, chewing gum is incredibly sticky, even when it’s in water. This means that it can get stuck inside pipes and collect other debris and block the flow of water.

    Having strainers in urinals and in the sinks will prevent gum from entering the water pipes. It is also important for workers and people in domestic homes to put used gum in the refuse.

    1. Prescription or illegal drugsBlister pack of medication

    Medication is often disposed of in the sink or in the toilet, as people think that it will disperse and not cause any problems. However, although the medication may well dissolve, the chemicals will not, and can cause serious environmental damage to wildlife and fish.

    Medication and other drugs should always be disposed of responsibly by taking them to a local pharmacy.

    1. Goldfish

    Flushing a fish down the toilet is never acceptable, whether dead and especially if alive. If still alive, the fish will likely go into shock and the chemicals used in the water treatment process will also be toxic to the fish.

    Live fish can be sold to other people or donated to a school, or even humanely euthanised by a vet. Dead fish can cause just as many issues, so instead of flushing them, they should be placed in the refuse or buried in the garden.

    Whether you are running a business, or in a domestic property, the things that go down the sink or the toilet can have a huge impact on the environment and on the infrastructure. Remember to act responsibly and only flush the three Ps, and nothing else.

  • How Is Corona Virus a Threat to Our Sewer Systems?

    Coronavirus is moving fast. Alongside surges in the numbers of detected cases, and calls for lockdowns in cities across the world, supermarkets in the UK are currently facing panic buying on an unprecedented scale.

    Alongside mass-sales of hand sanitisers and soap, packs of toilet roll have been flying off the shelves of British supermarkets, too. But, while stockpiling soaps and sanitisers has been rightly condemned - as a sales-trend which could have serious consequences for those who need that soap the most - the sales in loo roll have been laughed off by many, as simply ridiculous.Toilet rolls and empty cardboard tubes

    Ebay auctions which have seen packs of 72 rolls of Andrex flogged at over £50 a pop are certainly laughable, but the sinister consequences of this sales trend are nothing to scoff at. It could well spell disaster for our sewers.

    How?

    Feeding Fatbergs

    While toilet rolls are designed to break down in our sewers, and so ensure that our waste water continues to run smoothly, the shortage of loo roll is already driving Brits onto the alternatives – which are not so sewer-friendly.

    Already, people are resorting to kitchen roll, tissues and the dreaded wet wipe – but sending any of these down your drains could help to feed a blockage.

    Wet wipes in particular have long been known to help fatbergs grow much faster than they would otherwise. Failing to break down, they remain as solid matter around which fat, oil and grease waste accumulates, clumping together, solidifying and snowballing into fatbergs over time.

    Those fatbergs then block sewers, making sewer overflows more likely. Sewer overflows, in turn, send raw sewage straight into our waterways - damaging habitats and, eventually, threatening our health.

    Cartoon hand with liquid soap and virusIt’s a knock-on effect of the pandemic which will make a bad situation much worse -and it’s not the only one. Alongside excessive toilet roll purchases driving an increase in improper bum-wiping, a national shift in handwashing habits may also end up contributing to further sewer clogs.

    Soap, undiluted and unused, which makes it down our drains and into our sewers can act as a glue, sticking clumps of FOG waste together and helping fatbergs to grow that little bit faster. The lesson we need to learn: Use soap, and wash your hands for 20 seconds, but don’t use more than you need – don’t send an excess down our drains.

    Now, more than ever, our sewers need our help:

    We Are About to See a Significant Shift in the Fatberg Problem

    The volume of FOG (fats, oils and grease) waste being sent into sewers looks set to rise.

    Water companies have been attempting to raise awareness about the fatberg problem for many years now. With the threat of fines, they have been hard at work persuading food businesses to follow good grease management protocols and to install and maintain high quality grease traps to deal with their FOG output.

    Food businesses were the right focus for those awareness campaigns when they were being run: in normal circumstances, fast food joints, restaurants, pubs, bars and cafes, which prepare huge numbers of meals a day, are undeniably the biggest contributors to the FOG problem.

    But these are not normal circumstances: the coronavirus pandemic is about to bring about a significant shift in who is responsible for the FOG problem. With food businesses across the country set to close, they won’t be emitting any more fats, oils and grease. Households will overtake them.

    Households have, for a long time, been major contributors to the fatberg problem – but the collective impact of our households has for a long time taken a second place behind public eating places. But, as the entire population stays at home, preparing all meals in domestic kitchens, the shift could spell disaster for our sewers.Fried egg in frying pan with egg shells

    For starters, most members of the public have little awareness of the fatberg problem - most of those who don’t spend their time trawling through FOG news, don’t know the consequences of sending old cooking oil straight down their drains.

    Even for those who do know, and do want to do something to stop the formation of fatbergs in our sewers, it can be difficult to do something about it. Usually, unless your local authority runs a grease-disposal service, to get rid of household FOG, you’ve got to save it up until you’re able to drive it to your local waste treatment centre and drop it off. With a pandemic restricting movement to the essentials, it may be months before anyone is able to make those trips.

    As a result: it’s likely many will end up taking the easy option - sending that cooking oil straight down the sink.

    At a time when home-fried comfort foods are likely to become ever more common in household kitchens across the country, we Brits are set to give fatbergs an unprecedented helping hand.

    Find out more about fatbergs - what are they and what are they made of in Anatomy of a Fatberg.

    Water Companies Have their Work Cut Out

    Woman wearing facemaskWater company workers already struggle to deal with the sewer blockages which arise from an average year – with Thames Water alone spending £18m every twelve months clearing out 75,000 blockages.

    But 2020 is not a normal year. With the population panicking, water companies will have a gargantuan task to deal with over the next few months, just to keep our sewers running as they were.

    Britain’s newfound buying habits are a large part of the problem. With shortages in face masks making the work of water company fatberg removal crews that bit less safe, they’ll also be contending with a flood of FOG waste down our drains, compounded by toilet paper alternatives and an excess of gluey soap residues.

    Water companies will struggle to keep us safe, and to keep our sewer systems running smoothly.

    You Can Help

    Stay safe and stay self-isolated but, when you need to make a run to the shops for the essentials, keep calm and buy only what you need, be mindful of fats, oils and grease going down your kitchen sink and only flush the 3 P's down the toilet. Our sewers are relying on you.

  • The Truth About Fatbergs

     

    We Brits love our food fast and fried – with England alone being fit to burst with nearly 60,000 fast-food joints. As we gorge on endless pizzas, fish and chips and Chinese takeaways, the businesses which we pay to produce our deep-fried mains, snacks and sides are churning out thousands upon thousands of tonnes of fat, oil and grease (FOG) waste.

    And that’s not to mention Britain’s 27 million households, tens of thousands of restaurants, pubs, and canteens (to be found in offices, schools, hospitals and prisons up and down the country) – who all contribute their fair share of FOG.

    Where does it all go? The answer to that question is one which many of us would rather ignore.

    Often, those difficult-to-dispose-of FOGs end up being sent straight down our drains and into our sewers, where they contribute to one of the biggest problems which we face today: fatbergs.

    But what exactly are these monsters lurking under our streets?

    What is a Fatberg?

    Fatbergs are a relatively recent phenomenon. They got their name in 2013 when the first fatberg was found in a sewer in Kingston Upon Thames in London. They first found fame in 2017, when a 250 metre, 130 tonne mass of fat was discovered in a sewer in Whitechapel and quickly hit the headlines.Metal sewer manhole cover

    Since then, many more have been discovered and studied, leaving us with some early ideas of how they form and what they are made of.

    We have discovered that our ageing Victorian sewers are particularly prone to fatberg formation. The walls of our sewers are uneven, rugged, with plenty of nooks and crannies which, it turns out, FOG waste loves to cling to as it cools.

    Once our old cooking oils and used fats find one of these cracks, they bind to it and to each other, swirling by the walls until they catch more and more FOG. Along with fats, oils and grease, these swelling masses of waste catch anything else which happens to be flowing past – including wet wipes, condoms, tampons and, dependent on the habits of the people who live in the streets above, dentures and, even possibly syringes.

    The waste snowballs, building up and growing denser – until the coagulated clog becomes as hard as concrete. Gradually, the sewer becomes blocked – with the usual flow of raw sewage slowing and eventually coming to a stop.

    What Happens Next?

    • Fatbergs wreck the Environment

    Our sewers can only cope with so much. Sometimes they overflow. Sewers overflow for one of two reasons: either the sewers have filled up with an excess of water – perhaps due to a heavy storm – or something has happened which means that the sewer can no longer handle the usual volume of wastewater.

    For fatbergs, the second reason is the most relevant. Fatbergs take up space in our sewers, making them less effective and making it more likely that they will overflow, sending raw sewage straight into our waterways.

    These sewage overflows are bad for our streams and rivers for two further reasons. The first: raw sewage is often pretty toxic, containing chemicals and dangerous strains of bacteria which can kill many of the plant and animal species which call our waterways home. The second: raw sewage contains a huge amount of nitrates and other nutrients. This may sound good – it is not. An excess of nutrients in a body of water can cause excessive growth of certain plants, such as algae, which can make life difficult for the other plants and animals which live alongside them.Pipe spilling out water onto sand and into sea

    • Fatbergs Threaten Your Health

    While some fatbergs are much more dangerous than others, picking up a chunk of any berg with your bare hands is never a good idea.

    A sizeable number pose physical risks – with used needles being found in many of those bergs which have been pulled out of sewers in our cities. Many more are likely to contain that mix of toxic cleaning chemicals and dangerous strains of bacteria which have been seen above to threaten the lives of our flora and fauna.

    But even if you aren’t planning to touch a berg any time soon, you may still come into contact with them indirectly. These lumps of fat are a food source which is loved by rats – whose populations often boom in areas of our sewers where a fatberg is forming. These pests, moving freely between our streets and our sewers, may even traipse traces of faecal-matter soaked FOG into our homes.

    Fatbergs are a menace. So:

    How Do We Remove Them?

    Water company workers are currently responsible for finding fatbergs in our sewers.

    But they have their work cut out. While fatbergs have been known to smell like a mixture of rotting meat, searching for them is often like looking for a needle in a haystack. With tens of thousands of miles of sewers to check manually, it’s time-consuming work.Pickaxe and spade

    When a fatberg is finally found, crews get to work using high powered hoses alongside old fashioned chisels and pickaxes to work away at the bergs, breaking chunks off at a time and sending them off to sewage treatment plants.

    The price tag on these removal operations can be huge. The average fatberg calls for weeks of work and a budget of around £100,000 – with the worst cases taking far longer and costing far more. To remove the 2017 Whitechapel berg, for instance, Thames Water had to spend £2million over 2 months.

    While some programmes, such as that being run jointly by Thames Water and Argent Energy, aiming to turn fatbergs into biofuels have helped to offset these costs, the fatberg problem is still an expensive issue to be reckoned with.

    As those costs are increasingly being passed on to food businesses deemed responsible for nearby bergs in the form of fines, it’s a good idea to get on the right side of the fight.

    Do Your Bit To Prevent The Bergs

    Invest in and professionally install a good quality grease trap and you’ll have laid the foundations for an excellent grease management plan. Take care of your trap properly and your trap will keep your FOG output in check by intercepting your wastewater and allowing the fats, oils and grease which have slipped down your drains some time to cool, solidify and stay out of our sewers.

    Get your stainless steel grease trap today and do your part to fight the fatbergs.

  • How Are Commercial Catering Equipment Manufacturers Tackling Fatbergs?

     

    We’ve all heard about the fatberg problem. Fats, oils and grease (FOGs) are slipping down our drains and into our sewers where they cool and coagulate, forming huge concrete-like fatbergs over time which block pipes and make it more likely that raw sewage will overflow directly into our waterways.

    It’s a huge issue and we are all, in part, responsible. Those FOGs are coming from households, offices, schools, prisons and hospitals across the country. But the culprits most often pointed out in the media – and most often fined by water companies for playing a part in creating these sewer-blockers – are food businesses.

    From fast food joints to fine-dining restaurants, food businesses are being called upon to take on the FOG problem and ensure that they are doing the very best they can do to make fatbergs a thing of the past.

    But, while food businesses can ensure their grease management practices are up to scratch and invest in some quality equipment – it’s the producers of that catering equipment who have the real power to solve the fatberg problem once and for all.

    So: what are commercial catering equipment manufacturers doing to tackle fatbergs?

    Let’s look a little closer.

    Synergy and the Synergy Grill

    Synergy grills are renowned for their quality output. They’re sure to produce clean and succulent char-grilled results which look and smell fantastic, each and every time. They’re also ideal for catering to a wide variety of dietary requirements: with a low smoke output and optional grill divide, you can cook safe in the knowledge that you won’t have chicken flavours drifting over and mixing with your vegetarian offerings, even if they’re on the same grill.

    Gas flame with text 'in the future fat is vaporised' Synergy grill vaporises fat

    What’s more, Synergy Grills are great for cracking down on grease. The FOG which inevitably drips through the grill’s racks falls prey to a high-heat unique gas burner system which simply atomises fat, leaving an easy to collect layer of dry and dusty debris to be vacuumed away once the grill is cool and the racks are removed.

    Ensuring you avoid contributing to the FOG problem while producing quality food time after time, a Synergy grill can be an excellent investment.

    But, Synergy are not the only brand looking out for food-preppers conscious of their fat, oil and grease waste.

    Rational and the Grease Drip Collector

    Rational have a whole range of grease solutions for those who need them.

    For those who already own a Rational oven and are looking for a solution to their combi oven’s grease problem, for instance, Rational offer an innovative Grease Drip Collector. Sitting below the unit, these drip collectors ensure that any stray drips of grease which might otherwise find its way onto floors or walls or other surfaces ends up all in one place.

    Once collected, the grease can then be left to cool until it’s safe to handle. Once it is, disposal is made that little bit easier with Rational’s Drip Collector’s tap and drain hose allowing you to simply siphon the grease off into a container which can be sent out with the rest of your FOG waste.

    Sometimes the least-complicated solutions are simply the best, but Rational also cater for those who are looking for something a little more high tech.

    The Centrifugal Grease Extraction System

    Centrifugal separation involves pumping a mixture into a spinning chamber where gravitational forces separate the mixture into layers and so make the various elements of that mixture easier to collect.

    Rational have taken the idea of centrifugal separation and applied it to grease management – to enable fats, oils and grease to be separated from water and collected with ease.

    Rational combi oven centrifugal  grease extraction system Rational combi oven centrifugal grease extraction system

    Integrating centrifugal grease extraction systems into their cooking appliances, from their Combi-Ovens to their Cooking Centres, Rational have ensured that cooking air is kept consistently clean – meaning you’ll be producing great tasting food time after time. Meanwhile, you won’t need to worry about those pesky additional grease filters any longer.

    If centrifuges are a little too high-tech for you – but you like the idea of clever innovations – another catering manufacturer may have the answer for you:

    Unox and the SMART Drain

    Unox knows that grilling, frying and roasting whole heaps of food, particularly meat, can spell disaster for a food businesses’ drains. And they know that the FOGs inevitably produced from all that cooking can cause chaos in our sewers.

    So, they’ve designed an add-on for their combi ovens, such as the Cheftop, which aims to make it easier for you to intercept the fats, oils and grease which seep out of your foods while they cook before they make it anywhere near your sinks.

    The SMART drain is essentially a two-way valve which sits below your Unox appliance and above a waiting container. This valve is programmable: it’s able to work in sync with the cooking programs of the appliance in question and its positioning can be easily adjusted from the appliance’s control panel if necessary.

    Unox smart drain below Cheftop MindMaps Plus combi oven in cabinet with door open Unox Cheftop MindMaps Plus with SmartDrain in optional closed stand

    With a touch of intelligence, Unox’s SMART drains can make grease collection a little more foolproof, so that all you have to worry about is swapping out the collection containers once they’ve filled up and responsibly disposing of that FOG waste.

    These three brands go to show that there are plenty of catering manufacturers in the market working to help food businesses tackle the fatberg problem with a range of innovative solutions. And there are sure to be many more of those solutions on their way: the future is bright for grease management.

    But, we haven’t made fatbergs a thing of the past just yet: there is still plenty more we could be doing, as an industry, to ensure that our sewers keep running as smoothly as possible.

    If you are a food business owner looking to do your bit, and looking to invest in some of these great pieces of catering equipment, be sure to begin with the basics – invest in and install a good quality grease trap today.

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