A couple of days ago I wrote part I of Where Did (That) Grease Go If you haven’t read it already, I strongly urge you traverse that link. Today, I want to focus deeper on what options a typical restaurant/food-service enterprise has when it comes to getting rid of its grease in legal and eco-conscious ways.
So what does happen to FOG. As we mentioned in the last article FOG (meaning Fat, Oil and Grease a by-product in the restaurant business) needs to be disposed off correctly. There are many ways to dispose FOG. Typically though, when properly recycled they end up as bio-diesel or getting converted into everyday stuff like soap, cosmetics and lubricants. Yes this stuff can be put to use and converted to tangible products! So how does one go about doing this? This blog article briefly touches up on some method to recycle used oil, and then spends the bulk looking at what I think is an awesome product to generate on-site electricity – the Vegawatt. Yes you read that right. Use your own generated waste to power your own establishment!
First, we need to understand how we collect all the FOG we generate. Clearly, stuff from your fryer and other cooking apparatus needs to be collected in a common receptacle. But that’s not all. What about oil that gets into the plumbing system from plates that have a layer of oil, or inadvertent spillage? Well there are interceptors available in the market that can do a very good job of attaching to your plumbing system and collecting drain FOG. If interceptor sounds straight out of a star trek movie how about calling it a grease trap? Effectively they are boxes within the drain run that are located between the sinks in the kitchen and the sewer system. They work by letting a mixture of warm water and grease cool down and in the process separating. The waste water flows out whereas the grease trap traps the FOG inside the container. As simple as that. Well almost. Based on your drain flow, you may be required to have a grease trap of a certain size so as to let the water actually settle in and separate. So if you have a 4gpm drain capacity, and your grease trap is 40gallons, you are looking at the water plus FOG mixture staying in the trap for 10 minutes. Your local government may want to know this information. Similarly some cities (for example Boston) mandate cooking fixtures that require grease traps such as pot sinks, rinse sinks, dishwashers, wok, floor drains and sinks etc, and may also specify the maximum allowed discharge concentration in mg/liter.
Now that we have collected all of our recyclable (notice we are not calling it ‘waste’) FOG, you have a few different options to renew it. First there are outfits that will gladly pick up your waste FOG and take it to their facilities. If you don’t have containers to collect all your FOG, do not fret. These folks will happily supply the same. Essentially the waste goes through a cleanup cycle at the vendor facility where the oil is separated from the water and other particulate matter and gets recycled in any one of the many ways mentioned earlier. Now here is the clincher. Some of these services are actually free. Coastal Byproducts is one such company in the business of turning your waste into usable material. They have multiple service locations, provide collection containers and pick up your waste for free. They even leave behind a waste manifest every time they service your restaurant. Did I hear branding? Yes you could leverage this to show to your patrons how you believe in and act upon sustainability initiatives.
What if you are the kind of person who not only recycles but does it on premise and wants to re-use or re-purpose? There are solutions available for the same. The Vegawatt is one such technology which will help you achieve energy costs savings. According to their website any food service location with fryers can use the Vegawatt sytem to save $800 or more monthly in electricity and heating costs. The system can easily be installed outside your restaurant backdoor. It requires minimum setup and maintenance and can directly contribute to electricity consumption savings, and generate hot water. Depending on how much waste oil your establishment generates, you may see an ROI as quickly as 2 to 3 years out from your original investment. The system itself requires waste cooking oil as its input. It prepares the oil for use by filtering it to remove impurities. It then burns it in a generator to product electricity. The restaurant owner benefits from not having to store waste oil and grease, and also generates carbon neutral power to run their establishment. While the initial investment may seem a tad expensive, remember the breakeven point could be as low as 2 years and beyond that it’s pure savings – thousands of dollars into your net bottom-line. Further, there is a Federal Investment Tax Credit of 10%. If you are a restaurant or a cooking establishment that generates a lot of waste FOG, this blog highly recommends that you look into installing a system such as offered by Vegawatt
Ultimately it’s up to you. You can choose to pay the price of not recycling FOG (burst pipes, buildups and backups, foul odor and pests, environmental damage, fines and restrictions) or recycle for free or near free costs. From grease traps, to grease pickup outfits, to innovations such as Vegawatt you can turn waste into a reduction in your operations costs (in this case your utility bill). The research is available out there, the choice to me is obvious, yet it’s yours to make. Happy cooking for now!