It’s time to discuss the issue of FOG disposal

It’s time to discuss the issue of FOG disposal
Michelle Ringland, head of marketing at drainage specialist Lanes Group
06/02/2017 - 14:27
With restaurant kitchens facing continuous drainage problems, businesses need to be more aware of how they dispose of fats, oils and greases, as Michelle Ringland, head of marketing at drainage specialist Lanes Group, explains.

Every year, drainage firms are called to deal with thousands upon thousands of blockages up and down the UK. There are many reasons for these occurring, but the most common cause is when fats, oils and greases (FOGs) are poured down drains. These congeal, solidify and eventually block the pipe - both in drains underneath the premises and along the streets in the sewers.

Sending out companies like ours to deal with drainage and sewer issues caused solely by blockages costs water companies, with bill payers having to cover the extra expense. Thames Water alone spends more than £1 million a month.

By virtue of the fact that commercial kitchens deal with such large quantities of oils and fats, it’s particularly crucial that hospitality and catering staff know exactly what to do with the waste product.

Those working in hotels and restaurants often lack knowledge of what shouldn’t be put down drains, while many commercial kitchens don’t have effective facilities, such as grease traps and used oil storage containers, to properly dispose of the waste.

We recently asked 60 drainage engineers, from a mixture of Lanes Group and other firms, about their experiences of dealing with the sector.

Almost all of them (94%) told us they’ve been called out to clear blockages caused by FOGs. Half said that they deal with issues in restaurants several times a week, while 70% said that staff members’ lack of knowledge was the biggest issue.

The cost of callouts is not the only issue, though. Businesses in Scotland also face the possibility of fines up to £10,000, under the Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2016. This puts a ban on disposing of food waste to the public sewer, and has been in force since January 1st 2016.

Below is our key advice to avoid having to spend quite so much on drainage callouts:

Keep your staff educated

Even when oils are hot, they can still block drains. It’s a misconception made by many, but once the oil cools down it hardens and won’t budge without expert intervention.

It’s all about modifying people’s behaviour.

Oils like coconut and rapeseed do just as much damage

‘Fashionable healthy alternative’ oils such as coconut oil are just as harmful to drains as traditional cooking oils and fats, despite what’s sometimes claimed. It’s something that we’ve found many people in the sector seem to forget.

Waste oil can just be collected

It can be daunting, especially for smaller businesses, to know how to get rid of waste oil - especially if there’s a lot of it from fryers.

Fortunately, it’s now possible to simply have it collected for disposal. Services are available to collect it from your premises and they often provide safe containers to store the oil before they pick it up.

The Environment Agency will be able to let you know which services are available in your area.

Have a grease trap installed - and make sure it’s emptied regularly

Make sure you’re providing the right facilities so your staff can easily dispose of fats and oils. Some 62% of the engineers we asked pointed out that a lack of appropriate facilities often leads to major drainage problems, and many suggested installing grease traps to combat the issue.

Grease traps intercept FOGs before they manage to settle in drains, separating the water from all of those substances you don’t want to go down the pipe. They should be maintained regularly to ensure they’re working well – you’ll probably be shocked by how much oil, fat and grease they collect.

Don’t forget, it’s not just fats, oils and greases that can block drains. Solid food is also found to be a common culprit, so make sure every sink has a strainer. If you have floor drains, remember to never brush excess food down them - it all ends up in the same place after all!

Lanes Group is a national drainage specialist. For more advice and information visit www.lanesfordrains.co.uk

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