With restaurant kitchens facing continuous drainage problems, operators need to be more aware of how they dispose of fats, oils and greases. Michelle Ringland, head of marketing at drainage specialist Lanes Group, advises on how to tackle the issue.
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 blockages, 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.
Michelle Ringland, head of marketing, Lanes Group
Sending out companies such as 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 is particularly important that hospitality and catering staff know exactly what to do with the waste product.
Those working in hotels and restaurants are often unaware of what should not be put down drains. In addition, many commercial kitchens do not have effective facilities, such as grease traps and used oil storage containers, to dispose of the waste properly.
We recently asked 60 drainage engineers, from a mixture of Lanes Group and other companies, about their experiences of dealing with the sector.
Almost all of them (94%) told us that they have 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. 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 1 January 2016.
Blockage in sewer from waste fat, oil and grease
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. Once the oil cools down, it hardens and will not budge without expert intervention.
Putting improved signage around kitchens is another small but important step businesses can take to help reduce blockages. It is all about modifying people’s behaviour.
Oils such as 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 is sometimes claimed. We have found that many people in the sector are unaware of this fact. Ensure your staff know about it.
Install a grease trap – and empty regularly
Make sure you are 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 do not 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.
Do not forget, it is 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 – after all, everything ends up in the same place.
Waste oil can be collected
It can be daunting, especially for smaller businesses, to know how to get rid of waste oil, especially if there is a lot of it from fryers.
Fortunately, it is now possible to have waste oil collected from your premises for disposal. More often than not, before collection safe containers are provided in which to store the oil.
Your local Environment Agency will be able to let you know which services are available in your area.
Lanes Group is a national drainage specialist. For more information visit www.lanesfordrains.co.uk