Only 30% of the UK’s 400,000 commercial kitchens are served by some sort of FOG mitigation system, it is estimated.
The restaurant sector has found itself in the firing line from water providers over blockages caused by fats, oils and grease being discharged into the sewer network.
And according to ACO Building Drainage, one of the fundamental issues is that foodservice operators simply don’t have the infrastructure in place to cope with the issue.
For several years now, it has partnered with Cranfield University to sponsor PHDs into the mechanics of fats, oils and grease within commercial kitchens. And the research it has access to suggest that the overwhelming majority of kitchens don’t have a FOG solution in place.
Andy Buchan, divisional managing director at ACO, said only one in three kitchens is served by some sort of FOG mitigation system – and that’s not the worst of it.
“Of that 30%, probably only half have a FOG mitigation system that has any effect or real impact. So you are talking low numbers here. If actually only 10% to 15% of them take it seriously and have got something to deal with it, the industry has got a hell of a lot of catching up to do to do something about the problem in order to solve a bigger problem — and the bigger problem is the sewers.”
Experts note that Britain’s Victorian sewer network simply isn’t fit to cope with the heavier, shorter downpours that are now common these days if they are clogged up with solidified liquids from the restaurant industry and domestic household waste such as wet wipes.
“The thing about FOG is that FOG wouldn’t necessarily be a problem if it wasn’t for the wet wipes, and actually the wet wipes wouldn’t necessarily be a problem if it wasn’t for the FOG — it’s the two things combined,” noted Mr Buchan.
“One needs a binder and the other is the binder and that’s what has really caused the problems. If you actually go and dig into a fatberg you’ll find an awful lot of fats, oil and grease and wet wipes because they come together.”
It is estimated that the UK spends £200m a year cleaning out fats from sewers.