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Grease Interceptors

Written by Andrew Bird, MSc, BSc (Hons) Business Development Manager - Canplas

Summary: Yes, there is such a thing as a modern grease trap. In fact, some manufacturers of grease interceptors have made such significant steps forward in performance and durability, their new products are almost unrecognizable when compared against their traditional metal counterparts.

Since 2007, with the last major update of the Uniform Plumbing Code (UPC), all grease traps are referred to as œinterceptors. The large external tanks known as gravity grease interceptors (GGI's), are now called Hydro-mechanical Grease Interceptors (HGI's). The HGI units are the type found in commercial kitchens across the nation, standing on the floor or recessed in the floor, usually directly underneath or within 20 to 25 feet of the kitchen sinks or dishwashing machines, depending on local jurisdictions.  
The major challenge presented to the traditional units is corrosion. These units are most often a steel box with an inlet, an outlet and a number of baffles (sometimes removable) to force fat, oil and grease (FOGs) to separate. Once in service this steel box is filled with high pH waste water and food debris. The tiniest defect in the coating allows this caustic soup to attack the metal and immediately begin corrosion the day the unit goes into service. Even the surfaces above the water line are subject to constant humidity and attack. It doesn't take a science degree to work out what happens.

Depending on the menu of the food service establishment, the kitchen practice and regular maintenance that is required for all interceptors (and, yes, that includes automatic grease interceptors), steel units will corrode with time. As they corrode their operating performance decreases allowing more and more grease to pass to the downstream sewer, the very thing the grease interceptor was intended to prevent. If you are lucky, the tank itself will perforate and leak before the grease-separating baffles, but no one knows which will occur first.

What happens if corrosion occurs when the unit is recessed into the floor? Often there is no bottom left in the unit and the contents leach into the subsoil or backfill.  Different grades and thicknesses (gauges) of steel can accelerate or slow this corrosion process, but ultimately the outcome is the same; a leaking, smelly, ineffective void in the drain, progressively allowing grease to pass to the municipal sewer.

So, what is the solution? Like so many things that we use today, traditional materials are progressively being replaced by plastic alternatives. Grease interceptors are no different. Plastic alternatives are now widely available in both the plumbing wholesale and restaurant equipment supply industries and if your local representatives don't have the newer products, then you really need to start looking for new suppliers.
Major drain and interceptor manufactures such as JR Smith, Zurn, Mifab, and Rockford have built their market presence based on traditional materials, but under pressure from the market are all offering some form of plastic alternative. This change in products is as a direct result of significant competition from companies such as, Canplas, Ashland and Schier Products. The Canplas Endura models for instance, offer significant benefits for the food service operator and plumbing contractor/installer. Uniquely, these units are all PDI/ASME approved and UPC listed where applicable, offering an EZ-Open latching system on the cover. This makes access for maintenance quick, easy and reliable. The Endura units also use a recessed ˜o-ring' style gasket which finds favor with heath inspectors. Being all plastic they are extremely durable and there is nothing to corrode, perforate or deteriorate. Providing that the interceptor is regularly maintained, the newer models will continue to work for years longer than older units.

Given all the operational benefits of plastic, ease of installation, comparable price points, longevity and FOG separation performance (all of which vary between manufacturers), if I had the choice between metal and plastic there really doesn't seem to be much to think about. It's plastic for me!

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