Best practices for dealing with wastewater and food sludge

If you are in the food or catering business, you know what it is like to deal with kitchen waste at the end of the day. Now picture all the thousands of food businesses across the UK generating their own kitchen waste every day.

To put it mildly, that is a lot of waste, so there are strict processes and guidelines for waste disposal. Keeping up with all of them can be tricky.

However, by picking the right waste disposal solution and exercising a little extra care in the kitchen, you can minimise the hassle. Here, we look at one of the most common forms of waste in a food business — trade effluent.

What is trade effluent?

At its simplest, trade effluent is just the wastewater that any business generates during the course of its operations. However, there are strict guidelines on what constitutes trade effluent. For instance, the water that drains off roofs and into the drainage system does not count.

Neither does the wastewater from toilets or hand wash basins — that is called domestic waste. All other types of wastewater are regarded as trade effluent. For a food business, this typically refers to the water you wash your pots and pans in and the dishes you use to serve for food.

Dealing with trade effluent

The law is quite clear on trade effluent disposal — if your business produces the waste, you must be accountable to take care of it. In fact, you are responsible for your waste from the date it is produced to the day it is fully recycled.

The simplest way to dispose of wastewater is to flush it down the drain. However, not every business can do this. You must sign a trade effluent agreement with your water and sewerage company to specify what kind of wastewater you can put into the drains and in what quantity.

Depending upon your trade effluent and the volume, you may need to work with a third party who will collect and treat the trade effluent on your behalf. Please pick a service provider that is legally authorised to offer waste disposal services and ask as many questions as necessary about their procedures and disposal techniques.

If you do run into trouble later, having detailed records on what waste you gave to the service provider and how they agreed to process it will help clear you from blame.

Keep signed collection slips from the waste management service provider on file for at least two years. The Local Council or Environment Agency could send an inspector to check them. Do your homework and take the necessary precautions.

Exemptions for trade effluent processing

You may be eligible for exemptions from general waste processing rules depending on where you are located and what kind of food business you operate.

For instance, if you are a small eatery producing just a few kilograms of food waste per week, you may be allowed to process it with a macerator and dispose of it into the public sewage system although this is not allowed in Scotland and Northern Ireland. This, however, mainly applies to locations that do not have their own food waste collection service.

Again, wastewater discharged by takeaway food joints is not always classed as trade effluent, but the proprietors still need to dispose of their waste correctly.

It is, therefore, best to avoid guessing and consult the environment department at your local council or an independent wastewater treatment specialist. They can guide you on what exemptions may or may not apply to you.

Best practices for dealing with wastewater and food sludge

Managing trade effluent for a food business can seem tedious, but it does not have to be. Here are the top tips you should follow for handling wastewater and macerated food sludge in the safest possible way:

  • Ensure your entire cleaning staff is trained on recycling, storage and disposal practices. Offer refresher courses at periodic intervals to ensure everyone is on the same page.
  • Teach your staff to minimise waste at the onset as much as possible. For example, instead of washing fatty material down the sink, it can be scraped into the dustbin.
  • Ensure all waste is appropriately labelled depending on its recycling category. Labels should be prominently marked and legible.
  • Cleaning products can often be harmful to the environment. Train your staff on how to use them safely and in minimal quantities. Wherever possible, invest in less toxic or eco-friendly products.
  • Have filters and grease traps fitted on all your drains to catch debris and food particles before entering the sewage system. Clean the filters and traps regularly to avoid clogging.
  • If you are upgrading your drainage system, choose your cleaning products carefully, as corrosive chemicals could spoil your drain pipes.
  • Have a straightforward process in place to tackle spillage. Always have brushes and paper handy for dry clean-up methods and mops for more significant spills. Never dispose of spilled fluids down the nearest drain.
  • Ensure you have suitable storage facilities for your wastewater and sludge until the waste contractor comes to collect it. Take into account that there might be delays, so store your waste in a manner that minimises odours and avoids spillage or seepage.
  • It is vital to prevent uncontrolled contamination. Otherwise, the waste contractor could charge more to remove waste or even refuse to accept it.

Use BiOWiSH® Aqua FOG

All foodservice operators will agree (FOGs) are unavoidable by-products of food preparation and meal service. BiOWiSH® Aqua FOG accelerates the biological removal of FOGs actively and keeps the pipelines clean.

Fats, oils and greases (FOGs) pose a real problem for businesses where food preparation and meal service cannot be avoided. They accumulate over time and are mainly insoluble, forming a layer over the wastewater, and decreasing dissolved oxygen (DO) content.

BiOWiSH® Aqua FOG is a natural solution specially formulated for wastewater or influent streams with FOG content over 100 mg/L.

Regular use considerably improves the efficiency of aerobic treatment systems, grease traps, oil-water separators, and dissolved air flotation (DAF) units. Combat trade effluent using BiOWiSH® Aqua FOG. Break down FOGs permanently; prevent reformation and fatbergs.

Over to you

In conclusion, it is the responsibility of every food business to minimise the amount of waste it releases into the public drainage system and to take suitable measures when segregating and storing waste.

Following simple hygiene practices and using products like BiOWiSH® Aqua FOG will make a big difference. And for businesses seeking extra assistance with the treatment and disposal of trade effluent, several organisations around the UK will handle plant design, water testing, and process design to reduce waste.

So, what are you waiting for? Start small. Start with BiOWiSH®. Waste2ES is an exclusive partner of BiOWiSH® in the UK. Contact us to learn more about optimising wastewater treatment in the hospitality sector.

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