Fat, oil and grease (FOG), suspended in water, congeal as they cool and harden. By disposing of FOG down the sink or the drain, caterers not only risk the possibility of their businesses closing if drains get blocked, but also of receiving an expensive bill from the water company as well as potential legal action.
Each year, 100,000 tonnes of waste cooking oil is collected from the catering industry, a large percentage of which is disposed of illegally via drains or sewers.
As of 1991, the Water Industry Act made it a legal duty for catering businesses to ensure waste oil is stored and disposed of correctly. The act was put in place to prevent waste oil from being disposed of down drains.
It is still a commonly held myth in the industry that, if a main drain or sewer becomes blocked, it is the water company that picks up the bill for unblocking and repair. This is not the case. If a drain is blocked within the boundary of a business, it is often the business owner who ends up footing the bill.
Drain-line back-ups are expensive to remove and the charges from the water companies can be anything from an £80 call-out charge to £2,000 for a unblocking a main sewer.
Repeated chemical dosing and using plumbing equipment to remove the blockage sometimes work, but often cause further damage to the drain beneath the business property.
The Building Act of 1984 gave local authorities the power to ensure that all businesses maintain their own drainage systems. If a drainage problem persists and is reported to a local authority, a formal notice to a business will be served to repair and unblock the drain and a repair bill will be issued.
Caterers also need also to be aware that vermin love used cooking oil. If stored incorrectly, the smell of used cooking oil affects the sex hormone in rats and acts as an aphrodisiac which can lead to pest infestation.
Ian Collins is managing director of cooking oil recycling firm Living Fuels
Best practice for handling waste cooking oil
- Train your staff on why it is important to keep fat, oil and grease and food waste out of drains and sewers.
- Do not pour waste fats, oils and greases down drains or sewers.
- Good kitchen practice is to scrape plates into a bin. Do not jet-wash them under a tap. Sinks should have a strainer in the plughole to prevent waste food from going down the drain.
- Use a grease trap and empty it regularly.
- Ensure all oil is kept out of washing water.
- Collect waste fats, oils and greases in air-tight (ie sealed/leak-proof) containers to prevent odours and avoid attracting vermin.
- Store containers holding used cooking oils in a secure area away from all drains to prevent spills and leakages into the sewage system.
- Do not dispose of used cooking oils and fats with the general waste stream or with the rest of your catering or kitchen waste. Waste contractors may refuse to remove it, and there may be odour or pollution problems.
- Used cooking oils from catering firms must not be used as an ingredient in animal feed.
- Seek advice from your local Environmental Health Office and Building Control Department.
- Arrange for collection of your used cooking oil from a reputable organisation and retain the Waste Transfer Note for any inspections.