We've put our sink on a fat-free diet
Each year almost one million kilograms of fats, oils and grease (FOG) flow down the drains of homes throughout the Capital Region. Well, it doesn't always flow. FOG can clog pipes and treatment screens, causing backups, overflows and odour problems. FOG that makes it through to the ocean can deplete oxygen, damaging fish and other organisms that inhabit the environment. Not to mention that it takes additional energy for treatment plants to break down excess FOG entering the system.
A few simple actions will prevent excess fats, oils and grease from ending up in the ocean
For small amounts of grease, sauces and salad dressings use a paper towel to wipe off most of the oily residue before rinsing the kitchenware in the sink. If your municipality offers a kitchen scraps program, the soiled paper towel can be placed in the kitchen scraps bin.
For grease left over from cooking and frying, cool then pour into a container. Store the container in the refrigerator or freezer until full and then dispose of it. If your municipality offers a kitchen scraps program, you can place the content in to your kitchen scraps bin on your pickup day. If the container is compostable, the content and container can be placed in the kitchen scraps bin.
For large amounts of liquid cooking oil (up to 10 litres), store the oil in its original container and take it to Hartland Landfill for recycling.
Why are fats, oils and grease (FOG) a problem?
There are three main issues with fats, oils and grease entering the wastewater system:
- They clog the system by blocking pipes, binding screens and damaging pipes causing sewer backups, overflows & odour problems upstream of the treatment plant.
- In the absence of treatment they can deplete oxygen in receiving waters.
- Where treatment is in place, additional energy and treatment capacity is required to break down excess FOG entering the system.
Why are oils that do not solidify a problem?
Oils entering the system cause problems in three ways:
- Many oils actually do solidify at lower temperatures and therefore clog the system. Even if they don’t solidify they often bind to other forms of fats and grease.
- Some oils move through the system so quickly that they cannot be fully broken down in the treatment process.
- Oil droplets can concentrate other contaminants, leading to food chain problems.
How much fat is currently going into the wastewater system?
The CRD estimates that almost 1,000,000 kg of fats, oils and grease from residential sources enter the CRD wastewater system annually. This represents 60% of all FOG entering the system.
How should I dispose of fats, oils and grease?
Small quantities of fats, oils and grease should be left to cool and then stored in a sealable container in the refrigerator or freezer. Once the container is full it can be discarded in your household garbage or kitchen scraps bin. Smaller amounts of cooled grease, salad dressings and sauces can be absorbed with a paper towel and tossed into the garbage or kitchen scraps bin.
What should I use to store FOG before disposing of it?
One of the goals of residential source control is to reduce waste at its source in the most effective and convenient way. Use a container that is readily available, heat resistant and sturdy. Used paper coffee cups may be an option. Experiment to find the best solution for you. The key is to wait until the container is full before disposing.
If your municipality operates a kitchen scraps program, consider using a compostable container to store FOG. Both the container and content can be placed in your kitchen scraps bin.
As options become available that impose minimal or no cost to residents; are commonly accessible; and safely and easily implemented, the RSCP will adopt and promote those options.
Isn’t throwing containers full of grease into the landfill just creating a different problem?
Over time, fats, oils and grease are very effectively broken down under landfill conditions. Very low levels appear in landfill leachate. Fats, oils and grease cause greater environmental problems when they enter the wastewater system.
What should I do with large quantities of cooking oil?
Large quantities, up to 10 litres, of uncontaminated residential liquid cooking oil, such as used deep fryer oil, can be taken to Hartland Landfill for recycling. Cooking oil is accepted at recycling drop off area for no charge.
What about restaurants and the large amounts of fat and oil they use?
Since 1994 the CRD has worked with the industry through education, regulation and regular monitoring. Since 2003 properly sized grease traps have been mandatory in all commercial kitchens in the CRD. Non-compliant food service businesses are fined.
Why is the CRD spending money on this program? Why is it important?
The role of the CRD is to protect both the environment and wastewater infrastructure. Preventing contaminants from entering the system is more cost effective than trying to remove them with treatment. In addition, some contaminants cannot be removed through treatment, or only through very expensive treatment options.
Why should homeowners take the responsibility for making the water cleaner? Isn’t this a CRD responsibility?
The responsibility to take care of our environment is shared amongst citizens, businesses and all levels of government. The region’s citizens have proven to be very responsive to environmental initiatives such as recycling and we know that many citizens want to take action to protect our environment.
Once the CRD starts to treat the wastewater won’t this problem be solved?
No. Firstly, many problems can occur prior to wastewater even reaching the treatment facility. As an example, fats, oils and grease clog up pipes long before they reach the main pipes, often before they even leave the home plumbing system. Secondly, some contaminants are only partially removed by treatment or are only removed by very expensive treatment options. Prevention is the best and most economic alternative.