So #EarthDay2018 has come and gone but the clock is ticking on the 50th anniversary of the movement which is on our doorstep in 2020. Like so many things in the World today, billions of dollars are being invested to leverage our fragile resources and develop all manner of advanced products and technologies to solve the problems we have created and those that we are yet acknowledge or understand.
While all often exciting, engaging, fascinating and newsworthy, there are likewise many fundamental challenges that even though they have been present in our World for decades go significantly unaddressed. Not sexy, pretty, and frankly given little thought or the necessary attention, the humble grease trap (Grease Interceptors to give them their correct terminology) found in just about every food service premises across North America, are devices that are frequently mistreated, mismanaged and misunderstood. Is it any wonder that these essential devices have the reputation of being troublesome, smelly, problematic, ineffective and just down-right unpleasant!
The ever-increasing need to manage FOGS (Fats, Oils Grease & Solids) within commercial, institutional and industrial food service operations is not surprising given the equally increasing popularity of eating out and diversity of food choices on offer today.
Between the US and Canada there is something in the region of 1.6 million commercial and institutional kitchens, 1.1 million of those falling under the “restaurant” category
With approximately 1.1M food service establishments (aka “Restaurants”) across the US and Canada and another 500,000 locations such as schools, hospitals, nursing/care facilites, etc., many putting out 1000’s of servings food and beverage daily, neither public or privately owned sewer systems were designed for the levels of FOG (#FOGWaste) and solids that are being discharged today. This also takes no account of other significant societally-driven factors such as the increased use of “healthy” but “comparatively heavy” non-trans fats and oils in residential and commercial menus. Then of course…there are “flushable” wipes that in themselves are at best problematic but when mixed with FOGS make a perfect reinforced cement-like structure. Likewise, unintended consequences from the conservation of water in residential and commercial activities while on the one hand a positive, on the other results in reduced flow and in turn greater risk of blockages. Is it any wonder that the Fatberg phenomenon is gaining notoriety.
There are many steps in addressing this entrenched and challenging situation, not least of which is continuing to raise the profile and importance of employing the best technologies and solutions at hand in a coordinated fashion – or Hybrid FOGS Control. There are few applications where a single grease interceptor or devices will meet the needs of the facility based on the nature and type of appliances, fixtures and drains involved. Likewise, it has to be stressed that “Code” although perhaps the most developed anywhere in the Western World, is only established as a minimum requirement and in itself is often fragmented and not necessarily well aligned with modern products and materials.
“Code” only establishes the minimum requirement to obtain an operating permit
Foodservice operators are being driven by more environmentally lead practices both by their peers and their customers. The role of organizations like the Surfrider Foundation (www.surfrider.org/programs/ocean-friendly-restaurants) who have programs amongst others that recognize ‘Ocean-Friendly’ restaurants, will also become increasingly significant. Having first hand interactions with the water in the immediate vicinity of some of the largest cities, their awareness of wastewater quality and presence of pollutants is significant – as is the breadth and influence of their membership. Strongly connected to the sustainability and resilience industry, both construction and operations and maintenance (O&M) programs are beginning to recognize that FOGS has a role to play in the criteria for both new construction and renovation projects.
Key is education for all stakeholders, a more collaborative awareness and approach. In particular, as the client, property owner and/or operator in most situations, awareness and understanding by the food service industry as to the role that these products and systems play and the risks associated to simply doing the minimum, under-estimating or at the extreme disregarding their responsibilities in respect of FOGS. Ultimately this approach will cost business’ dearly both directly or indirectly. This process begins as early as our schools and colleges – before these people even know that they will be in foodservice – and then on into streamed education that shapes foodservice more directly. Today it would be extremely unusual to even find mention of FOGS and the operational needs in the majority of foodservice education. This we have to work collectively to change.
In the meantime new products and technologies await development, transition from allied industries, coordination and implementation, some on the near horizon, others still further out. Hand in hand, the system and interactions that serve this ‘niche’ market need attention and reconstruction themselves. Perhaps 2020 offers opportunity to bring Fats, Oils and Grease to the forefront of the collective environmental mind and really gain some traction on #FixingFOGS, once and for all?
The best way to predict the future is to create it! – Abraham Lincoln.