Airborne Kitchen Grease

A proactive approach to a costly cooking by-product

Airborne grease and smoke generated as a by-product of kitchen operations are a fire hazard, an environmental concern, and costly to clean. Local and national regulations require commercial foodservice operations to install a kitchen-exhaust system (KES) that evacuates heat, grease, moisture, and smoke from the cooking area. Consisting of a hood, baffle filters, ducts, and exhaust fan, the KES is monitored and maintained in accordance with the codes to prevent excessive buildup of grease effluent within the system.

Grease effluent can accumulate inside the KES rapidly and provide a fuel source in the event of a kitchen fire. Local codes require the frequency of inspections depending on the cooking equipment used and the volume of cooking. Monthly or quarterly required KES inspections are most common and generally result in a system cleaning.

The current standard practice of KES grease maintenance is reactive in nature: grease builds up within the KES followed by a system cleaning.

On average a complete KES cleaning uses 350 gallons of water along with toxic-cleaning agents necessary to remove grease from the system. In addition, the metal baffle filters are generally cleaned nightly, or at least several times weekly, requiring labor, water, and toxic-cleaning agents. On average baffle-filter cleanings use 40 gallons of water plus toxic-cleaning agents.

Local regulations require foodservice operators to install grease traps | grease interceptors designed to prevent kitchen grease from entering the sewer system. When the KES cleaning is complete, the greasy, toxic cleaning-agent-filled water is deposited into the kitchens sinks or other drains; the traps | interceptors flow capacity is exceeded by up to 12X. Thus, the Airborne Kitchen Grease (AKG) cleaned from the KES flows into the sewer system where it congeals.

Beyond the costs incurred by the foodservice operator, the reactive AKG approach is costly to the community and building owners:

  • FOG (fats, oil & grease) – build up in the sewer system constricts flow that may cause sewer back-ups into homes and overflow discharges onto streets. One of the main FOG sources is AKG deposited into the sewer system post-KES cleaning. Flushing KES-cleaning water into the kitchen drains results in an estimated annual 1.5 billion gallons of toxic, cleaning-agent-laden water flowing into local sewer systems.
  • Grease fires – according to the National Restaurant Association, there are over 7,500 restaurant fires each year, resulting in over $250 million in damages, and over 100 injuries.
  • Roof damage – AKG deposits on the roof after it leaves the KES, causing costly roof damage.
  • Air quality – AKG that does not deposit within the KES or on the roof flows into the local atmosphere and impacts two of the six EPA Air Quality Standards: ground ozone and particulates.

Ei Partner Ellis Fibre (EF) manufactures a patented, disposable grease filter made from a proprietary blend of sheep’s wool. The filter is placed in front of the baffle filters. EF’s Grease Lock Filters (GLF) collect over 98% of the kitchen-grease particulates before entering the KES. By eliminating grease build-up in the system, the nightly baffle filter cleaning is generally reduced to weekly; the number of third party contracted KES cleanings is significantly reduced.

Until the patented GLF introduction, there was no cost-effective alternative to reactive kitchen grease management. There are several systems designed to prevent AKG from entering the KES. However, the grease collection devices are metal, require cleaning and allow greasy, toxic cleaning-agent-laden water into the sewer system. 

The Ei AKG Initiative is grounded in a proactive approach to addressing the grease build-up in KES, deposited on the roof and emitted into the atmosphere. By capturing the AKG BEFORE it enters the KES, a myriad of costly impacts are significantly reduced or eliminated. Developing a city-wide AKG template is the main thrust of the Ei Initiative.

With Atlanta slated to serve as the Ei AKG Initiative Pilot City, the City of Atlanta Office of Sustainability gave the following Statement of Support:

The City of Atlanta, Mayor’s Office of Sustainability is pleased to support the Elemental Impact Airborne Kitchen Grease Initiative. Grease that is flushed into Atlanta’s sewer system creates significant harm to the City’s sewer pipes, wastewater system, and treatment facilities, potentially leading to millions of dollars in equipment damage. In addition, airborne kitchen grease contributes significantly to the number of calls that the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department responds to each year.

As the Sustainable Food Court Initiative (SFCI) Airport Pilot, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) took a leadership role with approval of a campus-wide proactive AKG approach. A campus-wide ATL GLF installation is estimated to reduce water usage by 1.1 million gallons per year and on average save each concessionaire $7,300 per year. A successful metro-wide Ei AKG Initiative would result in an estimated 43.4 million gallons of water-savings for Atlanta.

Refer to the AKG Stage 1 page where Ei Partner HMSHost participated in the cost-savings pilot with one of their ATL restaurants.

Prior to embarking on a city-wide AKG template, integrity within the proactive AKG approach was substantiated. Initial action steps fell into four categories:

  1. Fire Safety
  2. Cost-Savings
  3. Metrics Platform
  4. Filter End-of-Life

The AKG Stage 1 page details the work performed to substantiate the above four categories.

Once funding is secured, Ei moves forward with the following stages:

At the 2015 Annual Ei Partner Meeting the Ei AKG Initiative was announced in a presentation by Ei Industry Expert Partner Grease Lock Filters. The ZWA Blog article, Ei Airborne Kitchen Grease Initiative, announces the initiative; to download the PPT presentation visit the Annual Ei Partner Meetingpage.

For additional details on the AKG, visit the following ZWA Blog articles:

Due to loss of support by the Ei Partner leading the important initiative, the Ei AKG Initiative was placed on a side burner in early 2017 and awaits revival. When ready for renewed action, the AKG Initiative groundwork is laid and the implementation strategy is documented.

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