What Do Restaurants Do With Their Old Oil and Grease

Fats, oils, and grease (FOG) are found in all home and commercial kitchens, but they cannot be poured down the drain after cooking a meal. In fact, that’s one of the worst things a restaurant can do, and most of Oregon’s cities have ordinances in place to stop restaurants from doing this. Portland is one of them.

Why? Portland spent $4.6 million removing FOG from clogged pipes in 2016. In 2017, sewer workers removed nearly 2.4 million pounds of FOG from the city’s sewer lines. While this isn’t a record-breaking amount, it’s still a concern. In London, a fatberg weighing 130 tons was found in the sewers, and it took a lot of time and money to remove it.

It’s estimated that restaurants generate an average of 35 pounds of oil per day. It’s a lot of oil that builds up quickly during the week. It has to go somewhere. Restaurants cannot pour grease down the sink or into a storm drain. If you do and get caught, the fines are substantial. It’s not worth it. It’s also an important step in preventing grease from clogging your pipes and leading to a smelly backup of dirty dishwater over your kitchen floor or backroom.

You could throw all of that oil into the trash, but there’s a better way. Your used cooking oil could become a way to cut your monthly costs on grease trap or grease interceptor maintenance.

Grease Interceptors or Traps Are Mandatory

Portland, Oregon, started the Cut Through the FOG program in 2012 in order to stop FOG from going down the drains of the area’s 3,500+ restaurants. Three components of this program were for these restaurants to install and maintain grease traps, remove kitchen garbage disposals, and donate or compost food. As of 2017, 2,200 of the city’s 3,500 restaurants had installed grease traps or interceptors.

Restaurants must put in grease interceptors (also known as grease traps) when renovating their kitchens, changing ownership, or opening a new restaurant. This is code and cannot be ignored.

If your restaurant is in a Grease Management Area, the City of Portland will notify you that you must install a hydro-mechanical interceptor within 90 days or a gravity grease interceptor within 180 days. The city prefers gravity grease interceptors, though they are more costly. You will benefit by needing cleanings less frequently. What are the differences?

  • Gravity-operated – Multiple sections help slow the flow of wastewater, which gives the FOG, solids, and grey water time to separate.
  • Hydromechanical – Wastewater is cooled so that FOG rises to the top, the food particles settle at the bottom, and the grey water is trapped in between where it can flow through an outlet pipe.

Your restaurant also faces “Extra Strength Charges” that are based on how much food waste goes down the drain from your establishment. The rate shows up on your sewer bill as a “biochemical oxygen demand and total suspended solids charge.” The extra fee depends on the amount of food waste and FOG generated by your restaurant and is reduced if you have a grease trap or grease interceptor.

Make These Measures Common Practice In Your Kitchen

What can you do to lower the risk of excessive fees? Make sure all food waste is scraped into a separate bin for composting or into the trash. Place strainers in every sink drain to catch small food particles. Empty that strainer into the trash or compost container.

Before washing any greasy pots or pans, take paper towels and remove as much oil as possible. If your kitchen has a garbage disposal, get rid of it. Make sure you have a grease interceptor or grease trap installed to capture FOG. How do you know what you need? It comes down to how large your restaurant is.

  • A grease trap is suitable for flow rates of under 50 gallons per minute. It’s typically installed under the sink.
  • A grease interceptor is better for flow rates exceeding 50 gallons per minute. It’s a freestanding option that’s usually installed below the ground or outside of the kitchen area.

Hire a company to clean grease traps regularly. A grease interceptor may be able to go a couple of months without cleaning. A grease trap may need cleaning every week. You must monitor the level of the grease. If it’s reached 25%, it’s time to arrange a cleaning.

During the cleaning, ask the company if they include inspections. You want to have the system inspected to ensure it’s working properly. You don’t want to be in the middle of a busy service and have your grease trap backing up all over your kitchen floor.

Even better, schedule routine cleanings once a week, twice a month, or once a month. When you have the system cleaned and inspected, the collected grease, oil, and fats can be hauled away at the same time.

What Happens to the Used Cooking Oil?

This is where it gets fun. Used cooking oil that’s collected by Northwest Biofuel is hauled to a processing plant where it is filtered to remove any tiny particles of flour, batter, or other food. It’s then mixed with a catalyst and short-chain alcohol, typically sodium hydroxide and methanol. This converts the cooking oil to a mix of glycerin and biodiesel.

The resulting biodiesel is a seed product that can be mixed with regular diesel to fuel vehicles. It lowers the need for as much petroleum-based diesel. Plus, you’re reusing the cooking oil and turning it into a much-needed product. The remaining glycerin can be used to make soap and cosmetic products.

Choose a Company That Is Part of the Regional Preferred Pumper Program

Restaurant owners are encouraged to partner with a FOG pumping company that is part of the Regional Preferred Pumper Program in the Portland area. This is the best way to ensure you’ve partnered with a company that follows the city’s grease trap cleaning and maintenance requirements to ensure you comply with all regulations.

Northwest Biofuel is a member of the Regional Preferred Pumper Program. We offer cleaning and repairs of grease interceptors and we remove grey water, too. We’ll provide you with the FOG report paperwork you need to stay in compliance with city requirements, and we file a second copy of our FOG report with the city at the same time.

Talk to us about our recycling program where we provide a used cooking oil container for you and remove it on schedule. If you need it emptied before our scheduled pick-up time, we’ll be out within 24 hours. Talk to us about used cooking oil recycling and how you get discounted grease trap cleanings when you choose us to haul away your used cooking oil.

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