Clearing the FOG – a Data-Led Approach
Jul 19, 2022
Water utilities have a major challenge working with local food businesses to prevent fats, oils and grease entering the sewer network, but a combined data and marketing approach could be the answer, says Michael O'Dwyer, founder and chief executive, SwiftComply. Fats oils and grease (FOG) in the sewer network are a £90 million a year headache for water utilities in England and Wales. While giant fatbergs get all the press coverage, there are hundreds and thousands of smaller blockages that the water companies are tasked with clearing day-in day-out.
And while larger food production facilities have to comply with environmental trade effluent regulations, unlike in the US and Ireland, no such rules exist for the 500,000 food service establishments (FSEs) in the UK.
In an ideal world, the problem would be solved if every FSE installed a grease-trap. Correctly-sized, well-maintained equipment is the first step to prevention.
Capturing FOG at source and at scale would also provide the opportunity to generate significant biofuel resources, providing a stimulus to circular economy initiatives.
SwiftComply is working closely with UK utilities in combined digital and face-to-face education and engagement programmes. One of the aims is to collate data to better understand the food businesses using the sewerage networks.
Yorkshire Water has partnered with SwiftComply, and with support from City of York Council, to deliver a food service engagement pilot in the York city area to tackle an increase in issues relating to FOG and fatbergs. SwiftComply will engage both digitally and physically with around 1,000 food businesses to assess and improve their onsite FOG management practices.
The project campaign will involve SwiftComply establishing and publishing a website and digital media campaign to engage with food businesses. Further to this, food businesses will be provided with the opportunity to opt into an onsite FOG Risk Audit, carried out by the SwiftComply team. Food businesses will be provided with a report detailing areas they can improve and reduce their FOG Risk, along with support to manage these changes.
Initially, above-ground data on the number of restaurants, their GPS coordinates, cuisine-type and contact details are collected using specially designed cloud-based software. This information can then be expanded by finding out more about onsite FOG management from site visits, telephone interviews and digital questionnaires.
The data builds up a valuable resource for the utilities to tap into, facilitating much more robust decision-making around effective FOG education programmes with local business owners. The FSEs are also provided with digital and paper educational materials promoting best practice kitchen grease management.
This includes washing-up practices such as advice on the dry-wiping of greasy cookware, crockery and equipment; along with guidance on safe storage of waste oil. The rule of thumb being to remove as much oily waste as possible before it comes into contact with water.
Steve Wragg, flood risk manager at City of York Council, says, “As a flood risk officer, I see first-hand what problems fat oil and grease create on our sewer network system. We’re pleased to support this campaign with Yorkshire Water. Anything we can do to highlight the problems this causes, including fatbergs or other environmental damage, is a positive step.”
The historically light regulation of FSEs in the UK means water companies have a greater task in changing food business behaviour than in parts of the world where licensing for their discharges to sewerage exists. A useful step forward would be for water utilities to agree terms for a national standard on best practice in commercial kitchen grease management, so that all businesses are working to the same code.
The regulatory drive for cost efficiency in the water industry should lead to a nationwide utility-led grease prevention initiative, which would carry greater clout than localised schemes. With or without regulatory change, combined technology and marketing approaches like the one being trialled in York are ideally suited to addressing this complex and costly challenge.
More News and Articles
Mar 29, 2023
Water management: Spain invests nearly 23 billion euros
The Spanish government improves its water management and will invest nearly 23 billion euros to comply with European Water Directives.
Mar 27, 2023
UN World Water Day 2023: How municipalities can accelerate the water transformation
The United Nations is proclaiming the motto “Accelerating Change” for World Water Day on 22 March. The message: because the pressure on drinking water reserves is increasing worldwide, the change towards sustainable water use must be accelerated.
Mar 24, 2023
Innovative technologies remove pharmaceutical residues from wastewater
Every year on 22 March, World Water Day reminds us of the importance of one of the most important resources of life. Almost two-thirds of our planet is covered with water, but not even three percent is drinkable freshwater. Every …
Mar 22, 2023
Delivering sustainable solutions to solve water challenges
With British Water’s conference on creating a more sustainable water sector approaching, Stephen Kennedy, head of digital and innovation at MWH Treatment shares his views on celebrating recent successes in creating a more sustainable sector while also discussing the challenge …
Mar 20, 2023
Supporting the National Water Strategy through scientific research
This month, the federal government of Germany introduced the first National Water Strategy. “With this strategy, the federal government is shining a spotlight on the necessity of integrated water resource management, serving as a leading example of resource use in …
Mar 17, 2023
Trenchless manufacturer celebrates installation of 100,000th liner
SAERTEX multiCom®’s trenchless pipe relining product, SAERTEX-LINER, has been installed for the 100,000th time.
Mar 15, 2023
Versatile electric pipe-cutter makes UK debut
The first all-electric battery-operated lateral pipe-cutter to enter the UK market has secured sole distribution with pipeline equipment specialist Ant Hire Solutions.
Mar 13, 2023
Spring collaborates with Microsoft and Impact X on water innovation
The water sector’s innovation centre of excellence – Spring - is collaborating with Microsoft and Impact X on a new initiative to make tools and funding available for start-ups to accelerate their companies.
Mar 10, 2023
State of Global Water Resources report informs on rivers, land water storage and glaciers
WMO reports on freshwater availability in a changing climate
Mar 08, 2023
Australia: Centenarian sewer gets after-dark upgrade
Over 100 years since its inception, Brisbane’s S1 Main Sewer has undergone a seven-year upgrade.
Mar 06, 2023
UKWIR gives access to hundreds of water sector research reports
UK Water Industry Research (UKWIR) is providing free access to over 1,000 of its water sector research reports aimed at helping to improve water and wastewater services for customers, and protecting the environment.
Mar 03, 2023
Sector must challenge public misconceptions through engagement
The water sector must tackle “unfair criticisms” by sharing more about the great work it delivers, Yorkshire Water’s chief executive, Nicola Shaw, told attendees at British Water’s Better Together reception in Hull.
UK Regional Director
Floor 2 - Stuart House, St John's Road
PE1 5DD Peterborough
+44 7852 209115