Dumping Grease Down the Drain Feeds the Fatburg

FRYING BACON? THINK TWICE ABOUT WHERE YOU PUT IT.

Did you know not to flush or dump grease, fats and oils down the drain? Not everyone knows or cares about how important recycling used cooking oil is. This London wastewater company knows firsthand how many people are ignorant about what should or should not go down a drain- they spent the holiday excavating a “fatberg” from the city’s sewers. 

Feeding the Fatberg

December 20th 2019, The Gaurdian reported that two giant fatbergs had been removed from the central London, which had been threatening the holidays with potential flooding. These “fatbergs” when removed weighed 100 & 63 tonnes. The conglomerate had several tones of concrete, along with fats, oils and grease which cling to things that shouldn’t be flushed down the drain like wet wipes, diapers, and cotton buds to form a massive block in the arteries of London’s sewers. Solid materials like the wet wipes combine with fats and oils and create plaque buildup in sewers and continues to grow until there is a total blockage. The block had to be broken up by power tools by hand because the masses were impenetrable otherwise.

Thames Water, the waterwater company that spent the holiday season excavating the fatberg had several tips to Londoners for frying during the upcoming holidays, and most of the them involved not feeding the fatberg, explaining:

“Fatbergs are like monsters from the deep, lurking and growing under our feet, and the team worked around the clock to defeat these two before they could cause damage to our customers or the environment. We’ve all seen the problems and damage they cause, and I’d therefore ask everyone to please make sure they don’t pour fats and oils down the sink. By letting the fat cool, putting it in a proper container like a glass jar and then in the bin stops a fatberg growing into a monster.”

What’s in a Fatberg Really?

Back in October of 2019, in small town outside of London called Sidmouth, the wastewater company, South West Water, discovered a 140 ton, 210 foot-long fatberg and decided to find out exactly what was in it since it took eight weeks, 36 tanker loads, and $123,000. The town was small, rural, and had only 13,000 people in it- so why was there a fatberg the size of two football fields? They planned to found out. Four 22 pound pieces were taken from the blockage and sent to the University of Exeter for analysis. The results found no bacteria, or chemicals or anything harmful. Instead, it was domestic waste glued together by fats used in home cooking, including incontinence diapers and even a set of false teeth.

“We were all rather surprised to find that this Sidmouth fatberg was simply a lump of fat aggregated with wet wipes, sanitary towels, and other household products that really should be put in the bin and not down the toilet,” said Professor John Love, a professor of synthetic biology at the University of Exeter. The explanation was simple: “this was a small coastal community that is largely populated by retired people.”

How Can I Help?

Latest research says that about 1 out of every 5 people still drop their grease down the drain instead of taking proper precautions. London’s leading wastewater company removes up to 75,000 blockages from the London sewers each year costing around 18 million euros. That’s a lot of money spent removing grease, fats and oils! And this is something each and every one of us directly contribute to, and can make a difference in. Almost all of the world’s oldest cities have older sewers and plumbing making these fatbergs real and serious problems, so what you flush directly affects you and your neighbors. Cities in the US like Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York City have all also dealt with their own fatbergs and have spent millions of dollars of taxpayer money to keep the sewers free and clean.

How to Recycle Grease Properly:

If you are a resident who does not own a restaurant or supermarket, then you have limited options as to how you decide to dispose of it. If you have less than 10 gallons a month of used cooking oil, then the next few solutions would be best for you.

1. REUSE ITrecycling used cooking oil

After you fry food, wait for the grease to cool a little, and then pour it into a leak-proof container. Store in a dark, cool place. Now the next time you want to fry something, consider reusing the grease you saved. You can reuse as long as you are comfortable with the look, smell, and color. Once you have made the decision to use new, fresh oil you can use one of the next strategies to dispose of used cooking oil permanently.

2. ASK LOCAL RESTAURANTS

If you are looking for an easier solution closer to home, look no further than your favorite restaurant. Most restaurants have collection bins for their fryer grease, usually stored behind their restaurant next to their garbage collection containers. Most stores have their grease collected on a regular basis for free, and a lot of them receive an additional rebate check in the mail for the amount of grease they recycle. So a resident looking to dispose of their small amounts of cooking oil can ask local restaurants to add to their tanks as restaurants and supermarkets are paid by the weight of their used cooking oil.

remove and dispose of grease

3. DONATE AT NEARBY RECYCLING CENTERS

Used or Waste Cooking Oil is considered a somewhat hazardous material, particularly when it is exposed to the environment and wildlife. Fats and Oils released improperly can be detrimental to an ecosystem, whether it is absorbed through the ground or washed into streams. Because of this danger, almost all recycling centers accept donations of used cooking oil, where they are tasked with disposing of it in a safe and proper manner. Some recycling centers have certain containers for oils, or they might have certain days that they accept donations. If you are uncertain, make a call to a nearby center and they would be happy to explain their accepted materials policies.

4. THROW IT AWAY (PROPERLY!)

If you are dealing with a small amount of grease and have no alternative, you can throw out your used cooking oil. Used cooking oil can clog if it is poured down the drain, and if improperly disposed of can end up entering the ecosystem and damaging our environment and our wildlife. If you are planning on throwing your grease out, make sure it is in a tightly sealed container that is non-recyclable. You should dispose of the entire container with the cooking oil inside to ensure it will not leak or contaminate anything else. If you trying to get rid of more than five gallons of grease,

How to Recycle Used Cooking Oil for Restaurants

1. OUTDOOR CONTAINERS

MOPAC small tank for properly disposing used cooking oil

MOPAC can provide several different outdoor containers, which are free with our service. Our containers are made for outdoor weather with 12 gauge steel for years of dependable service. Our smallest option is are a pair of 55 gallon drums that come with lids and locks to keep your used cooking oil clean and safe (grease thieves steal millions of dollars worth of grease annually). There are three different sizes for our outdoor tanks, from small, medium or large. The smallest is 110 gallons, the medium tank is about 200, and the large is 300 gallons. Tanks are best for restaurants or stores that have multiple fryers and are consistently changing their oil. These tanks are leak-proof and locked to keep your valuable used cooking oil safe with two ways to access and remove grease for our drivers. Just pour your used cooking oil into one of these containers after your restaurant is finished frying to help the environment, and your business too.

2. INDOOR CONTAINERS

indoor used cooking oil tank

MOPAC can provide an indoor tank as well. This tank specifications can be determined by our customers and can range from about 100 to 400 gallons. The tanks can be placed almost anywhere indoors, and does not necessarily need to be near the fryer. This is because there is remote plumping available, which allows the old fryer oil to reach the tank without ever getting near it. There are also remote access ports, so our drivers can access the tank without ever having to go inside the building. Our representatives can evaluate a property for the best location to install an indoor tank, keeping in mind that our customers want their tank in a discreet location while also giving access to our drivers. Restaurant owners with multiple locations can work with our team for any combination of these solutions for each store.

3. CUSTOMIZED SOLUTIONS

hot used cooking oil extraction machine

For large venues, disposal services need to be prompt, hassle-free, and consistent. Each location or venue is unique, and MOPAC understands the challenges this poses. We currently partner with various industrial processors, like snack food companies, as well as hotels, casinos, stadiums, and concert halls. MOPAC sources indoor tanks to spec, as well as offering a mobile grease disposal unit that can clean a fryer in 30 seconds and holds up to 75 gallons of used cooking oil, making it one of the safest and most efficient grease collection units on the market. This unit is perfect for locations that have multiple frying locations– your employees won’t have to dangerously tote large quantities of used oil to a central disposal container on property, instead they can bring along this wheeled unit to quickly and painlessly clean a fryer. Just turn off the fryer, remove the baskets and bottom screen, and 30-45 seconds later the fryer is ready to boil out. This one piece of equipment saves an enormous amount of man hours, plus the old oil is easy to transport. Improves safety for potential burns, slips, falls and spillage; increases cleanliness as outdoor containers can be unsightly if not maintained; adds portability because it requires no modifications or special plumbing or piping; increases efficiency because manpower does not need to be spent repetitively waiting for the oil to cool before draining it in inconvenient ways.