Thermaco Grease Traps Blog

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Increases in Eating Out Put More Pressure on Pretreatment

Changing demographics and lifestyles are producing greater strains on water treatment systems and could threaten water quality. Surprised? It’s true. And we’re not just talking about the strain of a growing population.

Since the 1970s, the amount of food consumed at restaurants or purchased from take-out spots has increased dramatically. And with that, comes more commercial kitchen wastewater entering the sewers.

A 2006 USDA study, for example, found that from the 1970s to the 1990s, the percent of daily calories from meals purchased away from home increased from 18 percent to 32 percent. And from 1974 to 2004, away-from-home spending grew from 34 percent of total food dollars to about half of all food expenditures.

And this isn’t just an American trend. A 2012 UK survey found that British consumers were eating out an average of three times every two weeks, up from two times in the same period just a year earlier.

From 2007 to 2012, household spending on fast food in South Africa grew 5.4 percent, faster than in many wealthier countries.

Add to those numbers the fact that the population is increasing, and you get dramatic growth in the amount of food purchased away from home.

Why does this matter?

More dining out means more food service establishments. Consider that a generation ago, the idea of buying prepared food from a grocery store or a convenience store was unheard of.

Now, those same establishments often have full commercial kitchens producing entire meals. Plus, there’s simply more restaurants — more coffee shops, fast food joints, pizza places, full-service restaurants and the like. From 1999 to 2009, the number of restaurants in New York City alone grew 42 percent.

And all those food service establishments mean more grease. More commercial fryers and more grease of all sorts that could enter the sewer system if it’s not intercepted.

While those pollutants can be handled by waste treatment plants, too much grease in sewer lines leads to clogged pipes, blockages, back-ups and costly repairs. All that eating out can be costly.

Of course, wastewater regulations across the country and around the world have been tightened and the focus has turned to pretreatment to stop grease at its source.

But as these trends continue, pretreatment coordinators and other wastewater system managers will need to continue to educate food-service operators on pretreatment rules and help them find ways to economically and effectively keep grease out of our sewer systems.

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Friday, March 21, 2014

How to Calculate the Total Cost of Ownership of a Grease Trap

If you’re about to purchase a new grease trap you need to consider more than just the initial cost of the unit.

Like any piece of industrial equipment, grease traps have costs that go far beyond the initial capital cost. In fact, over a period of many years, capital costs are likely to make up just a small percentage of the total cost of ownership for a grease interceptor.

Grease trap and grease interceptor costs fall into three categories:

1.    Initial purchase cost
Initial purchase costs will depend on several factors, including how large a unit you need, whether you need multiple units and the type you choose.

Traditional concrete grease traps, which have been in use for more than century, are relatively inexpensive and have a large capacity. Newer grease interceptor technology (including our Big Dipper and Trapzilla product lines) may be more expensive initially. However, as with most things in life, you get what you pay for.

2.    Ongoing maintenance costs
Grease traps have to be properly cleaned out on a regular basis. If they’re not, they eventually fail and can cause expensive problems, such as messy back ups of fats, oils and grease in the kitchen.

Commercial kitchen operators can have their staff clean out the grease traps and dispose of the waste in the trash, or they can hire a pumping truck to pump it out and take it to a landfill.

Cleaning out the grease trap regularly should reduce other maintenance and repair costs.

When considering whether you’ll handle maintenance internally or externally, keep in mind the following:

-       Some types of grease traps (especially larger units and buried units) can only be cleaned out with a pump truck.
-       Some in-kitchen units (such as our Big Dipper) are relatively easy for staff to clean, while others are more challenging due to the large amount of grease they accumulate.
-       If you choose to handle grease trap maintenance with your own staff, proper supervision is critical. If the grease trap is not cleaned out regularly, serious problems can occur.

3.    Costs of grease trap failure
Finally, it is important to consider the cost of grease trap failure. Though grease interceptors that are properly maintained and regularly cleaned out should not fail, some grease trap designs have inherently lower lives and higher failure rates. Concrete grease traps are notorious for corroding over time due to their inherent design and then failing after a few years.

Failing Grease Interceptors can result in fines,
closures and expensive replacements.
Grease trap failures, whatever their cause, can be very costly. If grease is discharged into the sewer lines, expensive fines can be incurred — thousands of dollars a day in some places.

If failure causes a back up into your facility, you could also face health department penalties, nauseating odors from the kitchen and the possibility of having to shut down until you have fixed the problem.

If the failure occurs at inconvenient time – such as over a holiday or on a weekend – you may face rush charges or overtime costs in addition to normal plumbing installation costs.

Evaluating total cost of ownership
Because grease trap maintenance and grease trap failure can be so costly, it makes sense to carefully consider your options before you choose a grease trap solution.

Choosing a grease interceptor based on its initial purchase cost can be shortsighted and end up costing you much more — in dollars, hassle and public relations problems — in the long run. Carefully considering all factors is critical.

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Friday, July 5, 2013

Trapzilla®, A Thermaco® Technology, making a difference in worldwide effort to deliver clean water

ASHEBORO, N.C. — Water runs from our taps, and we store it in bottles, coolers and refrigerators.
Clean, cool and crisp. We take it for granted.
Much of the world isn’t so fortunate.
While the world population has tripled in the 20th century, the use of renewable water resources has grown six-fold according to, which works to promote clean water sources throughout the world.
Thermaco, a leader in the highly specialized field of oil and grease extraction from wastewater, considers this to be an important part of its mission.
“Thermaco strives to make relevant products for water pretreatment that enable food service providers to be better stewards of the sewer collection systems of which they are a part,” says Yaralitza A. Erives, Director of Customer Service and Sales at Thermaco.
In Mexico, for example, Thermaco’s Trapzilla® grease separators have been installed in several packaged wastewater treatment systems in Mexico City, according to a report from Environmental Engineering & Contracting of Santa Ana, Calif. (Link to full report available at end of article).
Thermaco hired EEC to evaluate the efficiency of the Trapzilla® units, and to observe the “relatively new progress in water conservation by private companies.”
Wal-Mart de Mexico and Central America owns the treatment systems, which have been placed at several of the retail stores in Mexico City. Wal-Mart owns 1,932 retail units in Mexico and is planning to install the wastewater units in the majority of the retail stores.
“Based on EEC’s observations,” the report says, “the Trapzilla® units appeared to be able to remove constituents, including settle-able solids, oil and grease to a satisfactory level and conditioning the wastewater for the downstream biological treatment processes.”
In the first half of 2011, Wal-Mart saved more than 140 million gallons of water, and treated 25 percent of its water consumption for reuse within its stores in Mexico and Central America, the company’s website says.
Fresh water consumption in the Mexico City metropolitan area, with a population of more than 20 million, is about 1,650 million gallons per day.
Trapzilla has a strong presence in South and Central America, including Colombia, Mexico, Panama, Tortola, Puerto Rico, Quito, San Pedro Sula, and Tegucigalpa in Honduras.
As part of the water treatment process, Trapzilla solids separators remove particulates from the wastewater while the grease interceptors trap any fats, oils, and grease that might prevent the onsite wastewater treatment system from performing optimally. Trapzilla’s patented design separates and retains up to 85 percent of its internal volume in grease and solids, enabling it to separate and retain efficiently while taking up as little space as possible.
In EEC’s opinion, installation and operation of local and privately owned wastewater treatment systems is a practical approach in underdeveloped countries that have limited or no sewer collections systems or inadequately sized public wastewater treatment plants. The packaged systems not only treat the locally generated wastewater but also provide a reliable source of water that reduces the potable water demand. The treated wastewater is typically recycled for non-potable purposes — toilet flushing and lawn irrigation. 
Keep in mind, recycled water regulations in Mexico are significantly basic compared to stringent and comprehensive regulations in the U.S. and Europe. The quality of the recycled water is visually monitored on-site for color and is laboratory tested.
Installation of privately owned wastewater treatment systems in underdeveloped countries appear to be a sustainable approach for reducing potable water demand and creating new and more reliable sources of water supply.  “The wastewater treatment plants observed in Mexico have small footprints and require minimal supervision and maintenance,” Erives says.
Worldwide, some 884 million people lack access to clean water, according to, and about 3.41 million people die of water, sanitation and hygiene-related causes each year. The water and sanitation crisis claims more lives through disease than any war claims through guns.
“Overcoming the crisis in water and sanitation is one of the greatest human development challenges of the early 21st century,” a recent U.N. report warns, according to the website
Education and conservation are key to ensuring people around the world have access to — and maintain — sufficient amounts of potable water. Solutions are often specific to communities and geographic regions. Localized wastewater treatment helps solve the problem of water conservation, providing added supply while reducing the demand from aquifer sources.
In most cases, though, it starts with treating ground and surface water.
Mexico, for example, since 2009 has launched many water saving campaigns, the EEC report says. “However, the water savings in the urban areas may not have a significant impact on water conservation, as the urban water use is only 10 percent as opposed to 75 percent water use by industry, commercial and agricultural accounts.
Mexico City, with a population of more than 20 million people who use 1,650 million gallons of water per day, has just 23 wastewater treatment plants with a combined treatment capacity of 94 million gallons per day, the report says. This year, it’s expected that the treatment capacity will increase to 119 million of gallons per day.
Meanwhile, Thermaco and Trapzilla will be there, continuing to offer innovative solutions to an ever-growing, ever-changing problem.
“These on-site packaged Wastewater Treatment Systems help in increasing the City’s wastewater treatment capacity. The double benefit of providing wastewater treatment capacity and water reuse is viewed as the optimal choice for regions with limited potable water supplies and insufficient municipal wastewater treatment capacity.”

John Trump (Contributing Author for Thermaco, Inc.)

Download the full EEC Evaluation of Packaged Wastewater Treatment Systems in Mexico City, Mexico at:

Thermaco, Inc. is regarded as the leading separation technology company in the highly specialized field of oil and grease extraction from wastewater. Its reputation for developing quality removal systems was established when the first line of Big Dipper® products became recognized for their exceptional reliability and effectiveness under a variety of applications and continues with new separation technologies such as Trapzilla. Thermaco’s history dates back 30 years, and during that time the company has installed more than 30,000 units worldwide. Thermaco is committed to helping food-service sites meet their neighborly obligations by complying with regulations set forth by the local water and sewer districts.

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Friday, May 10, 2013

Alpha Biofuels - Offering a Clean Solution to Growth in Singapore

Singapore –- the East Asian city-state –- is known worldwide as a leader in urban cleanliness and environmental stewardship. Visitors to Singapore discover a bustling multicultural metropolis where towering skyscrapers soar above charming British colonial architectural, and where an abundance of tourist sites, glamorous shopping centers, and food courts buzz with activity seven days a week. As one of the world’s most densely populated metropolitan areas, both the government and citizens of Singapore are proud of the nation’s leadership in urban efficiency, quality of life, and environmentalism.

“We may be a densely populated city, but we’re dedicated to continue improving Singapore, so that our people live comfortably and pleasantly,” said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loog, as Singapore recently welcomed 15,000 experts from around the world for Singapore International Water Week, a summit on cities, water, and the environment.

Among those attending, Singapore natives Allan Lim and Jack Ling are “green” entrepreneurs. In 2004, Lim and Ling, friends who share a passion for outdoor adventures and a concern about the impact of society’s growing carbon footprint, began discussing ways to educate and empower communities about the benefits of clean energy.

Guided by a vision of deriving clean energy from waste, Lim and Ling started Alpha Biofuels, inspired by a 2007 study indicating that as much as 20,000 tons of waste cooking oil was disposed annually into Singapore’s municipal sewage system. Alpha Biofuels set out to provide a solution: to convert Singapore’s waste cooking oil into a clean burning biofuel. With support from government and private sources, Alpha Biofuels eventually developed the Alpha Biodiesel Micro Refinery, a compact and easy-to-operate refinery for converting a variety of waste oils into biodiesel.

To fuel their reactors, Alpha Biofuels began providing containers for the collection of used fryer oil to restaurants and commercial food service establishments. They discovered that fryer oil was limited in supply and costly to acquire; however, collecting oil from grease interceptors servicing Singapore’s food courts and restaurants could enable them to accomplish their goal.

Thermaco’s Trapzilla Supercapacity Grease Interceptor has played a key role in Alpha Biofuel’s success.

“As a producer of biodiesel fuel in Singapore, we have been familiar with the Trapzilla TZ-600 grease trap since 2008,” says Allan Lim. “The Trapzilla TZ-600 grease trap has several features that are unique –- small footprint, odorless, ease of pumping, and no need for flushing the unit with water after pumping. However, the Trapzilla feature that is most important for Alpha Biofuels is its unique ability to retain oil and grease in a form that serves as a raw material for our company's biofuel production.”

So far, neither Singapore's Public Utilities Bureau’s grease trap nor other traditionally designed grease traps in use there have been able to provide waste grease clean enough and low enough in water content to serve as a raw material for Alpha Biofuel’s production of biofuel. “Oil collected from Trapzilla is highly usable for recycling into biodiesel and related other products,” Lim points out. “This feature has allowed us to use oil collected from the Trapzilla for the production of biofuel in Singapore at several key sites.”

Oil collected from Trapzilla is converted to biofuel at the Alpha Biofuels Micro Refinery located at Marina Bay Financial Center, and this biofuel actually powers the construction cranes for the one billion dollar project.

“Since a grease trap is a necessity in food outlets, not only in Singapore but around the world, the increased use of the Trapzilla TZ grease traps hold potential for food-service facilities to achieve energy sustainability without additional cost,” says Lim.

In the meantime, Alpha Biofuel's stated mission –– “to inspire communities about the potential for clean energy alternatives” – is also helping to fulfill the goal of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loog to make Singapore “one of the jewels of the Tropics.”

Owen George 
Owen George is a contributing author for Thermaco, Inc. and the founder of Owen George Global Strategies, Inc. 

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Monday, April 22, 2013

Suggestions for Reducing Detergent/Lipid Emulsions:

A.  Keep Soapy flows from Contacting Downstream Fats and Oils (Lipids)

A commercial dishwasher’s output is hot, soapy water and is ALWAYS running richer than needed in terms of detergent chemicals. Why?  Because it is a far lesser evil to send unused detergent (high in BOD) with sanitizers (chlorides) and water softening agents (a variety of mineral grabbing stuff so as to leave no spots on the washed ware) THAN to have a potential sanitary hazard imposed on the community’s dining customers, i.e. dirty dishes.  Sending a commercial dishwasher’s output through the kitchen’s drainage plumbing emulsifies any and all fats or oils in its route, including the retained grease and oils in a conventional downstream grease separator.  Notice the wording “conventional”.  Anytime a warm (usually no longer hot by that time) soapy flow enters a conventional (think traditional inlet and outlet configuration), it rises “lava lamp” style and displaces the cold water already in the separator.  As the cold water layer falls, it tugs on the underside of the trapped grease mat, adding some gentle mixing action.  Gentle mixing action is not normally a problem with just warm water alone, but as described above, it is the un-utilized detergent that craves to be with the lipids and just like when they play a slow number at a wedding party, the gentle mixing makes it easy for the bachelor detergent molecules to get dance partners with those wallflower lipid molecules.  Once they have that first dance, they are inseparable.  They are also soluble, too, and after that first dance, they not only leave the dance floor, they also leave the entire party out through the grease separator’s outlet exit (pipe).

B.  Opt for a Separator that Minimizes Emulsification Losses from Soapy Flows

This is the concept of designing to eliminate lava lamping or more correctly, thermal inversion.  Thermaco’s Trapzilla is quite small compared to a traditional concrete grease interceptor so how does it separate, retain what it has separated and somehow meet local sewer district discharge criteria?  Two points:  First, It has a unique horizontal baffle that precludes thermal inversion.  The warm water is not allowed to get up into the already trapped grease area, thus no detergents are getting up there either.  Second, the flows coming out of food service establishments are already stratified in the case of high flow discharges (pot sinks) or are readily separable low flow events where the separator easily separates the free-floating fats/oils.  In other words, the last thing out of a pot sink is what was floating on its surface.  As the floatables ride down to the sink drain, because they are the last to leave, they effectively just saunter slowly down the pipes because there is no longer head pressure prompting them to move briskly.   Sink spray down at the pre-rinse sink is a low flow event and begins to separate into stratified layers as it moves through the piping.  Thus, it is not hard to separate those free-floating fat/oil globules from slow moving flows like the end of a sink run or a spray down activity. 

Do we recommend Trapzilla units for food processing plants where the third shift walks around with high-pressure spray hoses?  NO!  That type of 100% physical (sheared) fat/water emulsion is very difficult to separate by any kind of separator short of storing over time in large vertical tanks or slowing running through a centrifugal separator. 

Does the Trapzilla separate as well as a 1000 gallon separator? Not quite, but almost.  We recently conducted a study at a doughnut operation of a Trapzilla versus the site’s prior 1000 gallon separator (see study report link at end of post).  The 1000 gallon was 9.7 mg/l FOG average over two months and the 95 gallon TZ-600 was 23.2 mg/l averaged over the next four months.  It is a pick your poison kind of decision and this is why pretreatment coordinators are increasingly having to walk away from a comfortable one size fits all approach as they balance community needs, collection system needs, WWTP treatment and other parameters going forward.  

Pumping contractors tell us the grease pumped out of Trapzilla® units at sites with commercial dishwashers is brown and they are initially surprised as they are not accustomed to seeing brown grease at those sites.  Obviously, the unspent detergents are not getting to the already trapped grease, a testament to no thermal inversion occurring.

Bill Batten

Doughnut/bakery third party evaluation report: 
Please note this is a large report pdf and will likely take a brief while to download.

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