One of the most important duties a restaurant owner has is to keep a grease trap working effectively. If your grease trap fails and fats, oils, and grease (commonly referred to as FOG) go into the sewers, you face steep fines.
FOG wastes are classified into two categories. You have yellow grease, which comes from cooking oils, and there is grease trap waste that can contain fats from the foods you cook, like bacon or beef. According to the EPA, restaurants can generate up to 17,000 pounds of grease each year. Wastewater treatment plants struggle with that much grease as it can clog sewer lines and create costly backups into businesses, residences, and bodies of water.
Know the Local Codes
Oregon Plumbing Specialty Code requires restaurants to have grease traps in place and working properly. The codes allow for hydromechanical grease interceptors (HGI) or gravity grease interceptors (GGI).
- HGI – Commonly referred to as grease traps and are installed outside in the ground or inside on or below the flow. Capacity is determined by the flow rate, usually 20 to 50 gallons per minute.
- GGI – These are installed outside, either in the ground or in a tank above the ground. They separate the FOG and food waste in tanks that hold thousands of gallons of wastewater.
Your restaurant is more likely to have the HGI. You will need to meet Portland, Oregon, requirements on how often it’s maintained. If you do not have a grease trap in working condition, you can be fined. The standard is to clean the HGI when it is 25% full of FOG. A high-efficiency model may be able to hold up to 75% before you have to have it cleaned.
When you do have it cleaned, the company you chose has to file the cleaning report with the City of Portland. Preferably, you need to choose a Portland Preferred Pumper. Why is this important?
Portland City Code doesn’t allow the use of bacterial, chemical emulsifiers, or enzyme products to break up FOG. They can damage pipes and impact the processes used in the wastewater treatment district. With regular cleaning by a professional, you don’t need products to help out.
Taking extra steps to get as much FOG out of your restaurant’s wastewater can end up saving money. Portland charges “Extra Strength Charges” to restaurants that do not use the best FOG management practices.
Prevent Headaches With Standard Kitchen Practices
Establish a standard plan of action for your kitchen staff to follow. Some of the best grease trap practices include:
- Scrape Food Off Plates Before Washing Them
Make it a standard practice that all dishes are scraped off before they are washed or loaded into a dishwasher. Establish a food compost system so that produce scraps and other compostable items don’t go into the trash.
- Use Strainers on Your Sink Drains
Add strainers to your sink drains. They’ll capture larger food particles so that you can move them to the trash or compost bins. A simple wire drain costs a few dollars, so there is no reason to skip this helpful measure.
- Wipe Oily Pans With Paper Towels Before Washing Them
Before washing skillets, grill pans, or baking dishes, use paper towels to wipe away any oily residue. Toss the paper towels into the trash. If you have compost that isn’t used for growing food, you can put oily paper towels into that.
- Don’t Use Boiling Water to Try to Loosen a Clog
You have a sink that’s slowly draining. Do not try to pour hot water down the drain to unclog it. It might work for now, but it’s only pushing the greasy clog farther down the line. It will end up being harder to reach.
- Never Pour Cooking Oil Down a Drain
Never pour used cooking oil down the drain. Even if you only have a couple of cups, it does not go in a drain. Have a pail you can transfer the oil to for now. When the pail is full, empty it in a cooking oil recycling container for haul-away service.
Don’t try to get away with pouring it through an outside stormwater drain either. It’s illegal, and you’ll get caught. When you recycle your used cooking oil, it becomes the necessary component to make biofuel that can be used in diesel engines.
- Check the Grease Trap Before and After a Service
Make it a habit to check the grease trap before your restaurant’s service starts and after service ends. You can monitor how much FOG has been captured and keep an eye on when it requires cleaning. If it’s getting close, it’s better to clean it now than find it is too full and risk a costly overflow.
- Consider an Automatic Grease Trap Cleaner
If you find yourself struggling to keep up with grease trap cleanings, look into an automatic grease trap cleaner. They cost more, but they can make it easier to keep up with excessive FOG production in a restaurant that serves high quantities of fried, greasy foods.
An automatic grease trap cleaner has a strainer basket that captures solids. Grease rises to the top of the wastewater where a heater liquefies it, allowing a skimmer to remove it. It all goes into a FOG container that you empty from time to time.
Watch For Early Signs of Troubles
Pay attention to the early signs of trouble. If you notice a sink isn’t draining as quickly as it used to, use a snake to try to clear the clog. A plunger may help. If you decide to use a plunger, you should consider loosening the plug on the P-trap and see if draining that section of curved pipe will loosen the blockage. Have a bucket ready to capture any of the water that comes out.
Meanwhile, you want to also call a grease trap professional to have your grease trap inspected. It needs to be inspected to see why it’s not working correctly. If it needs repairs, schedule them ASAP. Failure to take action could lead to costly fines.
Partner With a Grease Trap Cleaning Professional
Northwest Biofuel is a Portland Preferred Pumper. In addition to grease interceptor cleanings, both HGI and GGI types, we also install grease interceptors. We also offer gray water removal from food carts. Reach us online, via email, or by phone. We’re happy to discuss our services and the different discounts we offer that help cover the cost of cleaning services.
Our prices are already the lowest you’ll find, but you can also leave a key with us to have your used cooking oil collected and your grease trap maintained when the restaurant is closed. We provide a $25 discount for this. We also discount our services when you pair grease trap cleanings with cooking oil recycling. There’s no contract, and you don’t pay if you’re not completely happy with the work our grease trap technicians do.