The Fatberg problem is huge: our national love of fried fast foods currently means that more and more fats, oils and grease (FOGs) are slipping into sewers across the country and forming fatbergs which cost water companies hundreds of thousands of pounds to deal with. Not only popping up in big cities, these monsters have also been discovered festering in sewers in seaside towns like Sidmouth.
Understandably, the problem has left many of us looking for a miracle cure. One of the most popular being Bio-Dosing.
But is it up to scratch? And could it replace our traps?
To answer these questions, let’s start with the basics.
Grease Traps or Bio-Dosers - What’s the Difference?
The traditional method of handling FOGs, a grease trap simply sits in a corner of your kitchen, or underground beneath a manhole cover, and intercepts the flow of waste water from your sinks and appliances before it reaches the sewers outside.
The trap slows the flow of your waste water and allows it time to cool. While the solid food matter in the waste water sinks to the bottom of the trap, the FOGs cool to form a layer of scum on the top of the water. The water in the middle is then filtered out into the sewers, while the FOGs and solid food matter remain in the trap to be scooped out, regularly, by you – so that you can send that waste off to be processed by a specialist plant.
That specialist plant will use bacteria or chemicals to break down the FOGs.
Bio-dosing brings the methods of those specialists into your kitchen – so that fats, oils and grease can be broken down as they slip through your drains or as they enter your grease traps.
It sounds great and can be effective – but the big question which they have prompted is:
Can Bio-Dosers Replace Grease Traps?
To answer this, it’s best to begin by specifying that there are two types of bio-dosers: those which work in your drains, and those which work in your grease traps.
The bio-dosers which some are saying could replace grease traps as a standalone solution are those which work by breaking down the FOGs in your drains.
Let’s look a little closer at one of these.
The GreasePak Biological Drain Maintenance System doses your waste water pipe every night with a strand of bacteria which is capable of breaking down even the most stubborn long-chain fatty acids, oils and greases. With these regular doses, it maintains a bio-film coating on the walls of your drains which begins to digest FOGs as soon as they slip past.
Small and compact, the GreasePak slots neatly into place on the wall by your waste water pipe and can be left to its own devices for a month at a time – until its alarm goes off telling you that it’s time you refilled it.
As Bio-dosers go, the GreasePak is pretty cost effective:
While a mains-powered GreasePak will set you back just over £530 including VAT, the battery powered GreasePak comes in cheaper at £474 including VAT.
It is worth remembering, however, that the batteries of the battery powered GreasePak will need to be replaced about once every two years – at £45 a pop. As for the fluid, you can buy a 3-month supply (three 5 litre refills) for just over £130.
*Prices correct at time of posting.
Bio-dosers like the GreasePak promise to cut out drain blockages and stop any of the associated stenches from getting into your kitchen. With a GreasePak installed, your drains won’t become blocked.
On top of this, as GreasePak uses a naturally occurring strain of bacteria, while breaking down the FOG waste your kitchen will produce, the GreasePak does have some environmental credentials.
However, the GreasePak is not a miracle cure for the fatberg problem. While it can coat the walls of your waste water pipes with an effective mixture of bacteria – your waste water will be flowing too fast for those bacteria to break down all of your FOG waste.
This isn’t necessarily the fault of GreasePak – it does all it can, and it does it well – but having a single Bio-doser pumping bio-fluids into your drain simply won’t stop your drains spewing FOG waste into the sewers – and it won’t stop you from being held partially responsible if a fatberg forms in a sewer near you.
If You Want a Bio-Doser – Get a Grease Trap Too
Bio-Dosers can’t take on fatbergs single-handedly.
Bio-dosers can still have benefits: breaking down FOGs, they ensure that it takes longer for your grease trap to fill up. This is good for two reasons. Firstly, grease traps become less efficient once they are over 25% full, and so bio-dosers will ensure that your grease trap stays working efficiently for much longer. Secondly, if you dread cleaning out your grease trap every few weeks, a bio-doser helping to break down the FOGs in your drains or in your trap can make clean-up operations less frequent.
Basically: Bio-dosing keeps your trap working well while saving you labour.
If the price-tag attached to the GreasePak makes you feel like those returns aren’t worthwhile, there is another option you may be interested in.
Cheaper than the GreasePak, this method of beating grease involves investing in an automatic dosing pump such as the GBPump, as well as a bottle of GreaseBeta Liquid Fat Digester Amnite L100.
While the pump will set you back just under £190 (including VAT), a 100L bottle of the Liquid Fat Digester will set you back just under £120 for a 3 month supply.
Once you’ve filled up the pump and attached it to your grease trap, it will release up to two daily doses of the Fat Digester into the trap, where it will break down FOGs and slow the rate at which your trap fills up.
As with the GreasePak, GreaseBeta uses bacteria rather than harsh chemicals to break down FOGs – meaning that it too can boast about being more environmentally friendly than other methods of dealing with harmful waste products.
If your aim is to shave a few pounds off the price of saving yourself from too much dirty work, the GreaseBeta might be the way to go.
*Prices correct at time of posting.
Build on the Basics with Bio-Dosing
Grease traps are and, look set to remain, the main way of combatting the FOG problem. They are simple and they are effective – where Bio-dosing is a little more complicated and, on its own, not nearly as effective.
Bio-dosing can however form an important part of your grease management practices – and if you find yourself with a little extra to spend, it may be worth splashing out on a GreasePak or a GreaseBeta, if only to make your life a little easier.