Up to 150,000 sewer blockages each year are caused by fats, oils and grease (FOG) being thrown down sinks and drains. The time and expense involved in unblocking drains and subsequent clean-up operations can have an immediate impact on the bottom line.

With the raft of legislation impacting on FOG disposal and use, such as food hygiene, landfill, environmental protection and water industry regulations, businesses are also under pressure to take action, or face costly consequences both financially and to their reputation.

The Food Hygiene (England) Regulations 2006 and European Regulation (EC) No.852/2004 place responsibilities on food business operators to keep food premises clean, hygienic and free from pests, including requirements that grease is not allowed to build up and that premises and equipment are cleaned regularly to remove grease and dirt.

Local authorities also have the power to inspect premises under the Food Safety Act 1990. Problems arising from the effect of fats, oils and greases on drains, resulting in a failure to comply with the Food Hygiene Regulations, could result in prosecution or an emergency prohibition order, which prevents trading from the premises.

To help, Envirowise has produced a new guide, Better Management of Fat, Oils and Grease in the Catering Sector, covering the costs and issues associated with FOG in catering - from ways in which businesses can reduce use, treatment methods in the kitchen, recovery and disposal, to the importance of staff training and legal requirements.

l Clare Campbell is food and drink specialist for Envirowise


=== Top tips for better management of FOG ===

l Change the recipe - Changes to menus and techniques can help to reduce the quantities of oils and fats used. Even small changes can have a significant impact.

l Reuse fats and oils - With proper controls, it is possible to re-use fats and oils safely, particularly where a cooking/baking method requires a high throughput of the frying medium.

l Use grease traps - Grease traps can be fitted to the drainage system to remove FOGs from wastewater and prevent their build-up in drains and sewers, which can lead to blockages.

l Biological treatment - This typically involves the use of a bacterial culture that produces the enzyme lipase, which is able to break down fats, oils and greases, so that the bacteria present can use them as a source of food. Biological treatment should only be considered where fitting a grease trap is impractical due to a lack of space or for hygiene reasons.

l Back to earth - Composting is another method of disposing of your waste. However, any composting must be undertaken in a licensed waste facility, carrying out the composting process in a sealed unit - that is, in-vessel composting - to guarantee the temperatures necessary to kill off any harmful micro-organisms present.

l Training matters - During training, emphasise the need to dispose of waste fats, oils and greases in designated containers and not down the sink or the drain. Make sure staff understand that bad FOG management can lead to costly work to unblock drains and sewers, public health problems such as pest infestations, overflowing drains and bad smells, negative publicity and disruption to business and potential prosecution and fines not to mention potential loss of earnings for them.

l Release the power - Used oils can either be converted to biodiesel or used for incineration for energy recovery - in other words, electricity generation. A growing number of companies offer commercial collection services for these purposes.

Companies can contact the Envirowise Advice Line (0800 585794) or visit the Envirowise website (www.envirowise.gov.uk) to download the free ’Better Management of Fat, Oils and Grease in the Catering Sector’ Guide (GG809).