When asked to picture our sewer network, many of us may think of a robust system composed of vast, flowing pipes. In reality, most drainage pipes have a diameter smaller than that of an orange, and these seemingly indestructible systems have long been under immense pressure.
Now faced with growing populations and an ever-expanding food service industry which produces tonnes of fats, oils and grease (FOG) every year, blockages and flooding are on the rise. Food service establishments (FSEs) generate significant amounts of FOG through food preparation and cleaning. Once FOG enters the sewer network, it hardens and restricts the flow of wastewater, resulting in blockages and raw sewer back-ups.
With the aim of preventing such disruptive and harmful incidents, SwiftComply is working together with the food industry to mitigate community and environmental impacts and find a use for this waste resource.
How we help
SwiftComply uses a combination of face to face engagement and digital innovation, to help FSEs manage their FOG long into the future. At initial engagement, we assess FSE kitchens to understand how they are currently disposing of FOG. On the spot recommendations are given, alongside training, to help establishments understand what’s expected of them, and we continue to help FSEs with off-site support.
“Many FSEs are well established, yet have a poor awareness of FOG. Once businesses are aware that we are there to help, they’re happy to engage. Educating them on the impacts of FOG in their own community acts as a real stimulus for them to make a change,” says Sarah Cooke, part of the engagement team that works with these businesses.
Sarah notes that there are currently a lot of misunderstandings amongst FSEs surrounding FOG. One is the assumption that FOG relates only to used cooking oil, from deep fat fryers for example. As this type of oil is typically stored and collected by a waste carrier, business owners are often surprised to learn that they need to pay more attention to what they are washing down the drain. They can be even more surprised to learn that FOG comes from many unexpected sources, including sauces, coffee and ice cream.
Sarah explains: “With education, people become more aware of why making simple changes in their practices, like dry wiping plates before washing them up, is so important, because even salad dressings can contribute to the problem if they’re washed down the drain.”
Following face to face engagement, SwiftComply continues to support FSEs with an easy-to-use, digital solution that simplifies the compliance process. The food industry has increasingly embraced the use of technology and we leverage this to make achieving sustainability more accessible for businesses.
The bigger picture
Sarah says that “Businesses don’t want to be associated with having a negative environmental impact – once they become aware of the problem and how they could be contributing to it, they want to limit their impact.” That’s why our projects see a lot of positive change, from physical changes like installing grease traps, to increased awareness and behavioural changes.
Our continuous monitoring provides valuable insight into FSE behaviour across regions and helps water companies to understand exactly what changes are being made amongst food businesses. This is a very important part of our programmes, as SwiftComply aims to go beyond mitigating the risk of sewer pollution and flooding and provide significant green energy opportunities.