Biodegradable Degreasers Lead the Way for the Food Industry

By Allie Gallant

There’s a common saying: “fat is flavour”. Our favourite foods often come with a little – or a lot – of fat, oil and grease, also known as FOGs. So it’s no surprise that commercial kitchens, food manufacturers and processors deal with a substantial amount in their day-to-day operations.

FOGs are flavourful, but they’re also good at clogging things up. Whether it’s your drain, grease trap or pipes, if left to their own devices, FOGs will cling to every surface.

The costs associated with damage, equipment downtime, professional cleaning and disposal are substantial and common. Not to mention fines…regulators won’t look kindly on contamination of sewage systems, and generally, the discharge of FOGs is prohibited. So what’s the solution?

Many have realized that periodic flushing with a cleaning solution can keep equipment running smoothly, without the need to take things apart or get elbow deep in the grease trap. But how we remove grease comes with its own share of problems.

Biodegradable solutions provide the best of both worlds: clean pipes, without harmful contamination

FOGs belong to a family of molecules called hydrocarbons. Hydrocarbons don’t like to mix with water, which makes them hard to clean. Traditional degreasers overcame this problem with harsh solvents and detergents, posing risks to employees and the environment. You might eliminate FOGs, but now you have corrosive cleaners on your hands.

Biodegradable degreasers, on the other hand, are environmentally safe and can go straight down the drain. “Wastewater is not a place where you want toxic cleaning chemicals. But the reality is that FOGs clog systems,” says William (Doc) Knight, Chief Operating Officer for FFT Technologies, LLC, based in South Carolina. His company makes a plant-based petroleum cleaning agent that is non-toxic and non-hazardous. It doesn’t destroy paint or metal surfaces and it is biodegradable.

“Biodegradable solutions provide the best of both worlds,” he says. “(You get) clean pipes, without harmful contamination.”

Knight notes that there are many benefits to using biodegradable cleaning solutions:

  • Proper maintenance through regular rinsing reduces costs. “One of our clients, a butter manufacturer, went from days regularly dismantling and dislodging grease from their machine…to running a rinse cycle that takes about as long as brewing a cup of coffee,” says Doc.
  • The grease is broken down, so what does get into the sewer is rendered harmless. There’s no risk of discharged FOGs getting you in hot water with regulators.
  • They pose less risk to employee safety and reduce the need for specialized safety equipment.
  • They’re gentler than traditional cleaners. “A launderer had two clients – an oil refinery and a restaurant. They needed to get the restaurant’s mats clean, despite all the oil in the system, and it was a major problem. A biodegradable solution solved the issue. It eliminated FOGs, and extended the life of the fabrics substantially.”

Non-toxic degreasers cost about the same as traditional cleaners and eliminate the need for hazardous waste disposal. “Issues with cleaning cooking surfaces, machinery, drain lines and grease pits are day-to-day problems for the food industry,” says Knight. “We’ve progressed a lot in terms of the safety and adaptability of degreasers. Safety and effectiveness can go hand in hand. And, you get cost savings.”

Greasy messes are a reality in the food industry but the technology now exists to allow businesses to escape the grease trap: regular maintenance with a biodegradable product prevents clogs before they happen, increases the safety of your site for your employees and your customers, and allows you to take another step toward building on the profitability of the business. Everybody wins.


About the Author
Allie Gallant is a regular freelance writer and blogger with Global Food Safety Resource and she is also one of our most valuable and recognizable contributors.