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FOG

  • Would You Pay £2600 to Save £8k?

     

    Grease traps can seem pricey. And that price-tag can push some into buying cheaper, less-durable traps or even opting to take the risk and not have one at all.

    But choosing to cheap-out or putting off installing a GRU entirely is a bad idea for any food business.

    Here’s why being cautious about FOG production makes good financial sense.

    First, the basics:

    The FOG problem

    Fats, oils and grease (FOGs) left over on plates and utensils is washed down our drains as we wash up. Those FOGs find their way into the sewers where they solidify and, over time, form fatbergs.

    Dirty plate with knife and fork

    When those fatbergs are discovered by water company workers, an investigation begins which traces the responsibility for the bergs to the doors of local food businesses.

    After being educated by the inspectors and given a fair number of warnings, if those food businesses fail to change they will eventually face:

    Fines From The Water Companies

    These fines can be hefty.

    While the £420,000 fine handed out to Hypergoods Ltd. by Thames Water in September was particularly huge, even the more common financial penalties for poor grease management can cripple food businesses.

    Severn Trent Water is currently highly productive in their grease-related prosecutions, with a trio of court wins.

    Back in 2016, Severn Trent handed out a £5,495 fine to a restaurant in Wolverhampton for poor grease management. Severn Trent followed this up with a court win last year which saw SCE Catering Ltd. ordered to pay £9,226 for poor FOG practice and handed out yet another fine this year in a Nottingham Magistrates’ Court case which saw a third restaurant fined £8,419 for responding inadequately to the water company’s advice on preventing the formation of fatbergs.Roll of bank notes in red tie

    These fines have all been for contravening The UK Water Industry Act of 1991, an act which also saw a nearly £16,000 fine handed out to a Cambridgeshire Chinese restaurant in 2006, the year before a Wiltshire pub, an Indian Restaurant in Stevenage, and a school in Gloucestershire were fined £34,881, £15,000 and £7,616 respectively in 2007. The Act was also enforced to fine an Essex Chinese restaurant £9,660 in 2009 and to hand out another fine of £12,560 to a fast food joint in London in 2010.

    The point is that there is plenty of proof that water companies are adept at putting The UK Water Industry Act of 1991 to use in prosecuting food businesses who do not meet their standards – and those water companies have recently been putting that Act to work to ensure that all restaurants in their jurisdictions are on the right side of the fight against the FOG problem.

    If you want to avoid facing heavy financial penalties, the solution is simple: get on the right side of the fight.

    That’s why:

    A Good Grease Trap Will Save You Money In The Long Run

    Pink piggy bank behind three piles of coins

    A premium, long-lasting GRU will ensure that your business is never deemed responsible for any FOGs leaking into a sewer near you.

    You can’t get this kind of assurance from cheaper, less reliable traps and you certainly can’t go without and hope for the best – if the water company inspector comes knocking, they won’t be impressed if you can’t prove to them that you are doing all you can to help resolve the FOG problem.

    While quality comes with a bumped-up price-tag, that price is worth paying. 

    What Does A Premium GRU Look Like?

    Instead of the flimsy plastic which holds cheaper models together (and often needs replacing), premium GRU’s are fitted out with durable stainless steel.

    That’s true of the GreaseMaster GM50 automatic grease trap.

    GreaseMaster GM50 Automatic Grease Recovery Unit GreaseMaster GM50 Automatic Grease Recovery Unit

    Coming in at £2,600 including VAT, the GreaseMaster GM50 doesn’t just meet industry standards for grease management but exceeds them.

    With a 10-year warranty, it’s built to last and, functioning automatically, it’s built to ensure that, apart from giving its solid filter and FOG collection compartment a regular clean, you can keep working safe in the knowledge that your grease trap is doing what it does best while you aren’t looking.

    Another bonus: with an automatic trap like the Grease Master GM50, you won’t just be avoiding potential fines, you’ll be making real savings of £2-4,000 a year – the amount you would have to pay to professionally pump a passive trap every month or two.

    Save yourself from a hefty fine, and save the planet, in style. Invest in a quality grease trap, tailored to your needs, today.

  • Do You Know Your Grease Trap from Your Grease Interceptor?

     

    Whether you’re opening a new restaurant, or just revamping your current one, you’re going to need to install some form of FOG mitigation system. FOGs—or fats, oil and grease—are natural by-products produced during cooking. But if they’re washed down the sink they can congeal and form monster fatbergs which can block whole sewer networks.

    Because of the devastating environmental impact, this can cause, not to mention the extreme expense of simply clearing the blockage and repairing the damage, water companies can fine businesses who haven’t taken the necessary precautions to stop FOG being flushed down their drains.

    Grease Trap or Grease Interceptor – Do You Know the Difference?

    Fortunately, grease management solutions are readily available. You’ve probably already heard of grease traps and grease interceptors, but what’s the difference, how do they work, and which is right for your business?

    Grease traps, either passive stainless steel grease traps or automatic grease traps (or GRU's), are often the first-choice FOG management solution for most kitchen operators. They’ve been around since the 1880s and in principle, the technology hasn’t changed much since then. Basically, a grease trap is a receptacle which wastewater flows through before entering the drainage system. It is designed to “trap” the FOG from the wastewater, allowing only clear water to escape.

    They work on the basis that FOG is 10 to 15% less dense than water and that the two can’t mix. When wastewater enters the trap its flow rate is reduced so that it can cool and separate into three distinct layers. The FOG rises to the top because it’s the least dense and it’s trapped using a series of baffles. Food debris is the densest layer, so it settles at the bottom of the tank, allowing the now clear wastewater to escape through an outlet.

    Grease interceptors work in largely the same way, which is why, frustratingly, the two terms are often used interchangeably. But there are significant differences between the two.Stainless steel tap with water flow

    Flow Rate

    The main difference between a grease trap and a grease interceptor is the flow rate of wastewater they can handle. Grease traps work best with a lower volume of flow—ideally less than 50 gallons per minute. Generally, this covers most foodservice businesses.

    But large-scale establishments with a much higher volume of flow will need to install a grease interceptor. They are designed to operate in high-pressure water environments and can handle extensive grease flows.Large stainless steel grease interceptor and small stainless steel grease trap

    Size

    Grease traps are normally the size of a bread box or a mini-fridge. Although sizing can vary quite dramatically, from anywhere between 10 gallons to 500 gallons. They can be installed inside the kitchen, usually beneath the sink.

    Grease interceptors, with their larger holding capacity, are much larger and typically have a holding capacity of over 500 gallons. Due to their size, they can’t be neatly fitted under the kitchen sink and are instead often installed outside an establishment underground. They work best if they are located near the fixture they serve. However, they can often give off a bad smell so they should be placed far away from any areas that customers frequent.Cleaning in progress sign

    Maintenance

    Grease traps require cleaning more frequently than grease interceptors. That’s because they tend to be smaller sized units which get filled up much more quickly. Ideally, grease traps should be cleaned either monthly by a specialist or daily by your employees.

    As the capacity of grease interceptors is greater, they can gather a larger amount of FOG over a longer period of time. Therefore, they need cleaning less often. Good practice dictates that grease interceptors should be emptied and cleaned at least once every three months. But while grease traps can be cleaned by hand, grease interceptors must be serviced by specialists. Technicians use a large hose to pumps the FOG from the interceptor into a truck equipped with a holding tank.

    Quarter full tank gauge

    The 1/4 Rule

    Although this is generally a good rule of thumb for any cleaning schedule, for more accurate measure businesses that have a grease trap or grease interceptor should use the ¼ rule. The ¼ rule is an internationally recognised standard which provides a good estimate on when to clean on out the grease trap or interceptor.

    It states that once ¼ of the trap has been filled with FOG it should be pumped out. This rule applies regardless of whether a month or three months have passed. That’s because as soon as that much FOG has been trapped, the device no longer operates as effectively and there is an increased risk of blockages and overflows. If over time you notice that your trap or interceptor regularly reaches that ¼ mark in a couple of weeks, consider sizing up.

    It’s also important to note that the frequency of required cleaning can vary depending on the amount of grease produced in the kitchen. For instance, fast-food restaurants produce much more FOG than a predominantly vegetarian restaurant and will, therefore, have to clean their equipment more regularly.

    Whatever your business needs, grease trap or grease interceptor, it’s vital to invest in the right grease management solution. Choosing the perfect fatberg-busting box can dramatically reduce the environmental impact that your wastewater can potentially have on public drainage systems and public watercourses in general.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • FOG, Grease Traps and the Law

     

    The modernisation of the food industry has seen a lot of improvements and additions to a commercial kitchen. Every year, more of these commercial kitchens and food joints are opened, all offering different cooking practices and cuisines to an ever-ready clientele.

    With commercial kitchens producing more food than ever before, waste becomes a normal occurrence. Some of the waste finds itself in our environment. This is an unavoidable and sad reality, yet from it, you get to enjoy a well-prepared meal from your favourite restaurant.

    Governments, in an effort to ensure that commercial food establishments are responsible for managing the waste, have come up with laws that enforce responsibility and ensure that the environment is not harmed.

    One such law pertains to FOG and Grease Traps.

    A considerable amount of food preparation techniques require the usage of oil and fats. Most of these oils and fats end up as waste which is then discarded from the kitchen through various means. Improper disposal of these waste materials can result in the formation of grease build-ups which in turn cause harm to the environment.

    Some of the effects of improper disposal of FOG in the environment include the formation of fatbergs. These, in turn, accumulate in drainage and sewerage systems causing blockages and potential damage to the environment and wildlife.

    People working in a commercial kitchen

    Grease Management Systems

    Grease management systems work by preventing fats, oils, and grease (FOG) from getting into the drainage systems where they can accumulate. Businesses are urged to be more proactive than reactive when it comes to grease management. This, they can do by installing proper grease management systems such as:

    • Grease traps- Also known as grease interceptor and grease recovering device. It works by collecting FOG before entering drainage systems. They come in different sizes to meet different drainage requirements.
    • Grease removal systems (GRUs) or separators- They separate FOG from grey water and collects it to prevent clogging.
    • Biological dosing- This uses bacteria to act on the grease and breaks it down before it enters the drainage system. It is ideal in situations where grease traps would cause hygiene concerns. Dosing units are installed to periodically release the bacteria and nutrients which the acts on the FOG.

    Each grease management system is effective for what they were designed to do. However, the results are not always 100%. None can guarantee that all FOG will be kept out of the sewers. Some businesses choose to double up equipment to increase effectiveness.

    Laws and Legislation on Grease Management

    Currently, grease management systems are not compulsory by law. However, catering and foodservice establishments are legally responsible for any blockages in the sewers directly linked or traced back to their premises.

    There is a number of legislation surrounding grease management. They include:

    • The British Building Regulations (document, section 2.21) which requires new build commercial food establishments serving hot food to install grease traps or separators.
    • The water industry act 1999 indicates that it is a criminal offence to allow any matter to enter the drainage systems which may impend the natural flow of waste matter
    • Section 59 of the Building Act 1984 states that a local authority can require satisfactory drainage. This makes it possible for the relevant authorities to enforce grease management mechanisms.
    • The Food Safety Act 1990 stipulates that any build-up or blockage caused by FOG in drains fails to comply with food hygiene regulations. Businesses found to be in contravention of this law can suffer heavy repercussions.

    These are some of the many laws that govern the handling of grease in commercial food establishments.

    Water companies run routine checks on businesses dealing with hot food to ensure that there is proper installation and usage of grease traps. This is to ensure that businesses whose actions can lead to the introduction of FOG in drainage systems are compliant with the set standards. They can and will issue fines should a business owner neglect using the right grease management systems.Food being dipped in hot oil

    Grease Management Practices

    Normally, FOG is introduced into the drainage systems through various practices carried out in the kitchen. Practices such as dishwashing, cleaning of floors and sanitation practices might end up pushing some of the spilt FOG into these systems. It is why grease management is advised.

    Grease management doesn’t just have to be the equipment that you buy and install. While such equipment is important in ensuring that FOG does not end up in drainage systems, it is also important to note that you can take come counteractive measures to reduce that amount of FOG that lands in the grease traps.

    Remember, just because a business has installed a grease trap doesn’t make it immune from prosecution should a fatberg form. If the grease management system isn’t correctly installed or is neglected in terms of cleaning and maintenance it will be useless, allowing FOG to filter into public waterways. Businesses can still be prosecuted if it is proven that their ineffective grease trap has contributed.

    This is why it is important to incorporate these Best Management Practices in your business. It is also important to ensure that your staff is properly educated on these helpful practices. This also includes:

    • Using proper signage such as “NO GREASE” in front of sinks and dishwashers as a constant reminder. This acts as an ever-present reference for people working in the kitchen.
    • Educating your staff on how to handle old cooking oil. Practices such as ensuring that the collection barrels are covered and airtight at all times to prevent spillages and contamination.
    • A simple instruction to cooks and chefs on being conservative when using some of these cooking oils can also go a long way in reducing the amount of FOG finding itself in the drainage systems.
    • Viable and edible excess food can also be donated to prevent wastage. Some of the grease and oils used in preparing these foods will end up in drainage systems if the food is discarded.

    There are a number of in-house practices that can reduce/limit FOG entering the sewer. These include:

    Dry Clean-up

    This involves first wiping, scrapping, and sweeping of kitchen surfaces and equipment before introducing water. You can easily use a rubber scraper on cookware, utensils, serving ware, and chaffing dishes before washing them. Food grade paper absorbs oil in frying utensils thus reducing the amount of grease that may be discarded into the drainage systems.

    Use paper towels for surfaces to eliminate grease. Cloth towels might not be ideal for this kind of an operation because cleaning them will introduce FOG into the drainage system anyway.

    Do not pour any grease and oils down the drain.

    Dirty dishes

    Prevent Spills

    Spills are a common occurrence in busy commercial kitchens. These can be avoided by keeping the workplace clean and dry at all times. This prevents accidents.

    Cover food when cooking if possible and ensure that food transportation from one point to the other or from one utensil to the other is carried out using the right equipment to prevent spillages.

    Proper Management of Grease Management Equipment

    While grease traps and GRUs are ideal, there is little they can do if routine maintenance is not carried out. This also includes ensuring that they are properly fitted. Cleaning them regularly to prevent the stockpiling of trapped FOG will also raise the hygiene standards of your drainage system.

    Recycling

    It is possible and advisable to recycle waste cooking oil and use it for other purposes. In the UK, this practice is mainly carried out by the environment agency however other licensed contractors are available.

    Save for the reusing practices in many kitchens, old cooking oil is collected in containers and turned into other usable fuels.

    For example, vegetable oil can be turned into motor fuel through a process known as hydrocracking and hydrogenation. These processes aim at turning them into fuel such as diesel. It is usually referred to as renewable or green diesel. It can also be turned into oils used for heating processes.

    Cooking oil being poured into a bowl

    Use the Right Dishwashing Practices

    A 3 sink dishwasher system is ideal in this situation. It basically involves three steps of cleaning which ensure proper grease management. Utensils are first taken through Pre-wash, wash, and rinse stages.

    Every utensil should be wiped clean before being loaded into a dishwasher. This gives you the chance to collect all grease and oils into one place for proper disposal.

    For automatic dishwashers which use hot water, setting the right temperature is always advised. If the water is too hot then the grease will melt and slip through grease traps before cooling down on the other side, potentially bypassing any grease trap you have in place.

    Mind sewer drains

    This is applicable when cleaning equipment such as grease hoods and filters. While they should be cleaned to prevent eventualities such as kitchen fires caused by greasy surfaces, always ensure not to clean them near drainage systems where waste product and residue can accumulate.

    Proper Grease Management is good for you

    Installing a grease trap or a grease recovery unit (GRU) is not only important for your business, but it is also a show of responsibility for a business owner. Installation and appropriate grease management saves money, not only for the water companies who pay the bill for clearing fatbergs but also for the public and businesses who ultimately foot the bill when these additional costs are filtered through to the general public in an increase to water rates.

    You will, therefore, save more by installing a grease trap or GRU because then you will avoid heavy fines from water companies. Additionally, you have peace of mind that you’re doing your bit for the environment.

     

     

     

  • Poor Grease Management and FOG – the Effects on the Environment

     

    The idea of the climate breaking down is a terrifying thought – and it can be difficult to see how small acts can add up to create such a huge problem. Poor grease management is, nevertheless, part of that problem. Let’s take a closer look… 

    It All Begins with An Inefficient KitchenBottle and bowl of oil

    Letting fats and oils go to waste, by cooking with more oil than we need and failing to re-use as much as we can, is not only bad for our bank balances.

    Those wasted fats and oils have got to come from somewhere: whether we are talking about animal fats or plant-based oils, we are talking about the end product of a long agricultural and industrial process, both of which see massive amounts of energy expended and tonnes of carbon released into the atmosphere, contributing to the climate crisis which we are now experiencing.

    Remembering that oil doesn’t just cost money, it costs carbon, and keeping waste to a minimum is one small, easy step which we can all take to help avoid the breakdown of the natural world: know how much oil you need to use, don’t use more and re-use what’s leftover. 

    Then: Don’t Block the Drain

    Though it might be inevitable that some will slip and slide down the plughole, letting fats, oils and grease go down the drain is never a good idea: FOGs block pipes.

    If your drains are blocked, you are much more likely to pour a whole load of drain-cleaning chemicals down your sink.

    Just like the fats and oils themselves, those chemicals have got to come from somewhere. Just like the fats and oils, those cleaning compounds are the end product of a long industrial process which also expends a huge amount of energy and also releases tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere.

    Keeping blockages to a minimum by being careful to avoid FOGs slipping down your sink is one more way to protect the planet.

    In the Sewers

    Goslyn GOS40 GRUAnother way to save the world is to install a grease trap or grease removal unit.

    Without one, the fats and oils which do go down the drain flow straight through into the sewer (together with those cleaning chemicals).

    In the sewer, fats, oils and grease congeal in the cold and solidify, slowing the flow of sewage before eventually snowballing into fatbergs which clog the sewer altogether.

    We know that fatbergs make it more likely that our sewers will overflow, releasing raw sewage directly into our waterways.

    But fatbergs also amplify the toxicity of the sewage: they trap and hold everything which tries to flow past in place, from human waste and food deposits to wet wipes, condoms and drugs.

    In the sewer’s cool damp conditions, without much oxygen, harmful strains of bacteria thrive with plenty of time to anaerobically break down what is in the sewage, producing toxic by-products.

    The environmental impact of this increase in toxicity comes into play when we try to…

    Clear Out the FatbergWater jet

    Fatberg extraction usually means a small team working for weeks with high-powered jet hoses to break down the berg. Usually working at night, they need lighting for the street and for the sewer. Then they need vans burning fuel to cart off chunks of the berg to a sewage treatment plant. This is a lot of energy which would not need to be used if it wasn’t for the fatberg.

    On top of this, fatbergs make sewage treatment far less efficient. The more toxic the sewage and the more solid the matter, the more processing that sewage needs: this means more energy and more industrial chemicals (like chlorine) need to be used to treat it.

    What comes out the other side will not look so pretty, either. When dealing with a fatberg, a lower proportion of clean water and a higher proportion of the waste product or sewage sludge will be produced than if the treatment plants only had to deal with the 3Ps (pee, poo, paper).

    What Can We Do?

    Thames Water and Argent Energy have teamed up to convert fatbergs into biodiesel, meaning that at least some of those sewer blockers can become fuel.

    While this does off-set the energy required to deal with the fatberg problem, however, not having a fatberg problem in the first place would be much better for the natural world.

    Install a grease trap or grease removal unit – and come back soon to read about the impact of poor grease management on wildlife.

     

  • The Super Sewer Strikes Back

     

    The world has undoubtedly progressed and developed through the ages. This is a good thing, after all we wouldn’t have the medication, technology and modern comforts that are often taken for granted in the 21st Century. However the introduction of man-made convenience items such as baby wipes, condoms and sanitary wear have led to and created a new set of problems. Coupled with the increased use and production of fats, oils and grease mainly during cooking, the once hallowed sewer system of the 19th Century just isn’t able to cope with today’s modern lifestyle.

    For too long, the sewers beneath our feet have been dominated by massive accumulations of fats, oils and grease combined with solid waste that is irresponsibly disposed of down the toilet. It’s time that the sewers fought back.

    London’s Old Sewers

    All of London’s sewage was once washed straight into the Thames. This meant that, for a long River Thames, Londontime, the city stunk. In the 19th century, the problems became much more serious. In 1832, London experienced its first big outbreak of deadly cholera, which was followed by two more in the space of 25 years. These outbreaks were blamed on the bad smell.

    In 1858 the crisis reached its peak: at a time when 400,000 tonnes of sewage was being washed into the Thames each day, a particularly hot summer meant that the river’s water level fell and exposed decades’ worth of the city’s waste to stagnate in the sun.

    The House of Commons could no longer ignore the stench of what became known as The Great Stink. After attempting to move Parliament to Oxford, MPs drafted in an engineer named Joseph Bazalgette and told him to find a way to direct waste to sewage treatment plants outside of the city. Bazalgette responded by building the system of sewers that is still in use today.

    Our Modern Problems

    Over 150 years later, we have our own waste problems to deal with. London’s population has tripled since Bazalgette was around and most of those 9 million Londoners do not live like Victorians. The sewers were designed to overflow into the Thames once a month, but now they pollute the river each and every week.

    Meanwhile, the modern way of life means that the same sewers must handle something Bazalgette could never have predicted: Fatbergs. These huge blocks of Fats, Oils and Grease (FOGs) frequently block up the sewers under London’s streets and make it even more likely that our sewage will end up flowing directly into the Thames.

    The Solution?water and sunset view through pipe

    Thankfully, Bazalgette Ltd. is working on it, constructing a super sewer named Tideway. When it is completed in 2023, Tideway will be a 15 mile network of large sewers running under the Thames from Acton to Abbey Mills. The £4.2 billion Tideway tunnels will catch the overflow from the old sewers, store it, and then re-direct it to Beckton Sewerage Treatment Works where it will be treated and, once clean, released into the river.

    Tideway vs Fatbergs

    Tideway promises to clean up the Thames, and will mean that the Victorian sewers will be better able to cope with the strains of London’s growing population and the modern way of life. But Tideway doesn’t completely tackle the problem.

    Thames Water now spends about £1 million per month clearing fatbergs from London’s Victorian sewers and fatbergs will continue to form under London’s streets for the foreseeable future. Eventually, we may even see huge clogs in Tideway’s much bigger tunnels under the Thames, which would be even more expensive to clear.

    Water companies are stepping up the war, not only against fatbergs but against the businesses that directly contribute to their formation. Investigation into the origins of a fatberg have brought about a number of fines imposed on offending businesses to help cover the cost of clearing the blockage. Currently fines often stretch into thousands of pounds and that’s with a smaller, dated sewer system. As Tideway is developed, this massive super sewer will alleviate the issue however if people continue to abuse the sewer system, clogs will form again – but double or triple the size. Just think what the cost of fines would be then.

    What Can You Do About It?Stainless steel grease trap

    The direct solutions are still the best. Being aware of the impact of what you pour down the sink, and installing and using the correct sized grease traps in your drains stops the problem at its source, by preventing fatberg producing FOGs from getting into the sewers in the first place.

    While foodservice businesses and takeaways are deemed to be the main culprits, it isn’t only these premises that need to brush up on their grease management and clamp down on irresponsible behaviour. Domestic households are also contributors. The amount of FOG produced in a family home might not be of fatberg forming quantities but every little bit does damage. On top of this, domestic premises are the main culprits when it comes to flushing solid materials down the toilet – anything other than the 3 P’s (pee, poo and paper) is not acceptable.

     

    The new super sewer is yet another progression in societies advancement, a sign that systems below ground are evolving and developing just as society is above it. Responding to the growing needs and demands of a rapidly expanding population however, is remedy to just part of the problem. It’s vital that we use the opportunity that Tideway promises as the catalyst to address our own individual grease management practises and disposal tactics, both on the commercial and domestic front.

  • Anatomy of a Fatberg

     

    Ever thought about where that residual juice, fat, oil and grease from cooking equipment, trays and plates goes once it’s disappeared down your sink? Despite what many people think, it doesn’t just wash cleanly down the pipes to a treatment centre.

    Foundations of a Fatberg

    Once cooled your fats, oils, grease (also referred to as FOG) and juices solidify and congeal in pipe work. This, on its own, wouldn’t exactly be ideal but when combined with flushed items (which shouldn’t actually be flushed) such as wet wipes, sanitary products, contraceptives and cotton buds etc. a complex fusion is created that can develop into gargantuan proportions. What might begin as a minor nuisance can mature into a colossal blockage, costing time and money to remedy.

    A fatberg is formed.

    Are There Any Other Contributing Factors?

    Although the emphasis is placed on FOG mixed with solid matter, there are other elements that may contribute to the problem. Household items such as soap and essential oils etc. can all add to the problem – even claimed that the type of loo paper used can play a part.

    The general advice is to only flush the Three ‘P’s’ – pee, poo and paper, but even that may be in doubt if some reports are to be believed. Some are of the opinion that areas that pay a bit more for plush toilet paper are at greater risk of blockages; the thicker, quilted paper being harder to break down (although this is not evidenced).

    What Are the Effects of Fatbergs?

    When the sewer system is blocked, any overflow that can’t continue through the pipes creates pressure, potentially leading to blocked toilets and drains and the possible rupturing of ageing pipe systems. Any excess effluent that hasn’t got anywhere to go is flushing out into public waterways, the waste littering coastlines. This isn’t just an environmental hazard but poses a threat to wildlife.

    Where Do They Form?

    Victorian sewer

    Anywhere. Although mainly a product of highly populated areas, fatbergs have cropped up in less dense regions. Notably the most recent discovery was in Sidmouth; a relatively quiet seaside town.

    The problem isn’t just with what’s being flushed down toilets and sinks but also the substandard UK sewer system. First installed in the Victorian era when the population was considerably less and the day to day lives of society didn’t produce nearly as much waste, they just weren’t designed to cope with the demands of the modern world. The original structures in London were equipped to deal with the then populous of circa 4 million however have never been updated or modernised, so it’s not surprising that it can’t cope with the ever-multiplying population of today that’s approaching 9 million.

    Combatting Fatbergs

    Highlighting Bad Habits

    Although commercial foodservice businesses are highlighted by water companies as major contributors, being investigated and fined where an offence has occurred, blame shouldn’t only be restricted to your local restaurant or take-away.

    Bad habits are just as prevalent in the domestic arena. It has been reported that 4 in 10 residential premises within the Thames Water jurisdiction still pour oils, fats and grease down the sink, even though fatbergs and the known sources are more publicised than ever.

    People may think their little contribution won’t make a difference to the situation, but when everyone thinks the same, that’s when it turns into a massive issue.

    Reactive Response

    People imagine fatberg formations to be soft, squishy masses but surprisingly they are more like concrete. When a blockage is located, it requires high power water jets, pickaxes, shovels, drills and a whole lot of elbow grease to clear the way through the solid structure.

    A plan of action is formulated, teams are dispatched and the blockage is removed, although the whole process can take many weeks and even months.

    According to Water UK, there are approximately 300,000 blockages in UK sewers every year. That is estimated to cost water companies (and indirectly, the tax payer) up to £100 million to remedy.

    Rather than just react to the problem, a long term solution needs to be based around prevention rather than cure.

    Proactive Solution

    Educating domestic and commercial premises is essential.

    In the domestic sphere, flushing of the unflushables has been well publicised, with environmental consequences being made clear. Every perpetrating household can’t be brought to justice and so part of the solution has to rely heavily on common sense and the acceptance of responsibility by the public.

    In an attempt to help combat the fatberg phenomenon and the contribution of solids to theStainless steel passive grease trap problem, a new standard has been announced regarding ‘flushable’ wet wipes. Many so called ‘flushable’ items have been proven to be anything but, however this new testing aims to bring clarification to what can and can’t go down the toilet. The hotly anticipated ‘fine to flush’ logo will be awarded only to products that pass more rigorous testing. This comes off the back of Water UK’s information that non-flushable items are thought to contribute to almost 93% of sewer obstructions.

    Cooking juices and FOG ending up down the sink can be moderated and dramatically lessened with good grease management protocol. All plates and cooking utensils should be scrapped of waste food and wiped free of any residual juices before being rinsed. Any excess that does find its way into the drain can be caught with the simple installation of an appropriate grease trap.

    While presently grease traps aren’t required in domestic premises, they are strongly recommended and advised in commercial catering operations. Although other countries enforce strict rules for grease trap compliance, in the UK they are still only a recommendation … at the moment. It is soon believed that they will become a mandatory fitting in new and existing commercial properties.

    Fatbergs are increasingly posing a real threat to communities, the environment and wildlife. By educating the public and businesses and giving a greater understanding of what exactly fatbergs are and how they can be prevented, this is one problem that we can all combat together.

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