Pub group Mitchells & Butlers is investing £7 million in installing grease removal units across its UK estate, following a prosecution for the group failing to prevent FOG entering the sewers at one of its pubs.
Jennie Smith, director of building maintenance at Mitchells & Butlers, said the pub and restaurant group has undertaken its own trials of grease management equipment due to the “lack of an industry standard to guide investment in new systems”.
The business, which operates more than 1,600 venues across the UK, took action after it was prosecuted in 2021 over issues surrounding the disposal of fat, oil and grease (FOG) at one of its venues in Oxfordshire, dating back to 2017.
Ms Smith said: “We had some grease removal units in our estate, but we weren’t installing them proactively, we were using them reactively when we had a problem.
“So, off the back of prosecution, we received quick approval to spend £7million putting grease removal units across our entire estate. We found there is no standard, no real transparency about what those machines do and how they work.
“Making a decision on how to invest this huge amount of money, I needed certainty this product will work and will be compliant. We couldn’t get that, so we did our own trial.”
On the opening panel of this year’s European Fog Summit, Ms Smith explained how the company trialled a range of equipment from different manufacturers and is now moving forward with the roll out of the technology across its portfolio.
At the summit, which brought the water and hospitality sectors together in Liverpool last month, businesses called for clarity from UK water firms regarding their requirements for FOG disposal.
Equipment manufacturers and specialists in circular and renewable fuels also joined the conversation over three interactive panel sessions, with the aim of developing collaborative and sustainable solutions to keep sewer networks clear of FOG.
Andrew Crook, president of the National Federation of Fish Friers, said: “As a national organisation, we want to share with our members best practice, but it is difficult when water company requirements are different in every region. It’s a tough time for our members but they are looking for solutions and it’s our job to make sure they make the right choices.”
Sarah Taylor, head of facilities at pub operator Marston’s, talked through benefits of FOG management from a corporate standpoint.
She said: “FOG is very important for us to control. The more callouts we have for drainage issues, the more times we need to send someone to service the unit.
“That puts vans on the road emitting CO2, so it controls that as well, which we want as everyone is striving towards net zero and carbon neutrality. There is also a nice revenue stream from recycling used cooking oil.”
The next panel focused on cross-sector collaboration, with the role of water retailers and more targeted use of localised data among the discussion points.
Martin Needham, head of commercial at Everflow Water, said water retailers have a key role to play in helping wholesalers target commercial businesses.
Ben Hatfield-Wright, FOG programme manager at Anglian Water, said unity with cross-sector stakeholders can energise the circular economy.
The final session of the day explored the potential of FOG as a resource, net zero and the circular economy.
Keith Warren, chief executive at the Foodservice Equipment Association, highlighted the new Environment Act 2021 and said there was an opportunity to get FOG included in its secondary legislation.
He said: “As a collective, we need go to government with our position. Regulation is needed so we all know what we are shooting for in terms of fat oil and grease and its management.”
Over the course of the summit, panellists also gave updates on standardisation and insights into FSE training and engagement, while water companies gave examples of successful customer awareness campaigns and FOG removal programmes.