A Short History of Grease Traps

July 20, 2021

If you work in commercial kitchens—or wastewater treatment—you’re probably familiar with grease traps. Grease traps are designed to catch the fats, oils and grease that collect when cooking and washing dishes. Instead of sending these substances into the wastewater treatment system, where they might clog up operations or plumbing, the grease traps hang on to this cooking waste. Traps are pumped regularly as they fill up, and the fats, oils and grease are recycled or disposed of safely.

Even if you deal with grease traps on a regular basis, chances are, you’ve never heard about the history of grease traps and grease removal. Here’s some interesting trivia for your next pub quiz night or Jeopardy! stint.

How grease traps originated

To understand where grease traps come from, you’ll first need to understand a brief history of indoor plumbing. For centuries, civilizations could only pop up near fresh water sources. Even with irrigation, that meant someone had to haul in water for cooking and bathing. While sewer systems had existed in ancient civilizations, they were largely ignored for centuries.

In the Enlightenment era, humanity once again turned toward indoor plumbing and sewer systems. Waterworks and industrial pumping stations cropped up during the Industrial Revolution. This led to massive city growth—and all the problems you’d expect when people don’t understand what they can and can’t flush down the drains. Since sewer systems often deposited wastewater into fresh water sources or onto the ground’s surface, this could be a massive (and gross) problem.

Nathaniel Whiting obtained the first patent for a grease trap in the 19th century. Although the initial technology was simple, it hasn’t changed much in the past 200 years. In short, a grease trap uses a small box or container to separate hot water from melted fats, oils and grease. The container slows down the hot water long enough for it to cool and separate from the solids. The solids stay in the container, while the dirty water travels into the septic system. This prevents the solids from coagulating and ending up in the plumbing.

Do you need a grease trap?

If you own a commercial kitchen, grease traps are a must. Most municipalities require them by law, since the volume of solids passing through the sewer system would create an unmanageable strain. Even if you work to prevent food solids from going down the drain, melted grease will still slip through the cracks.

Using a grease trap is the best way to keep grease out of the wastewater system. When the grease trap gets close to being full, you simply call a grease removal company to pump the trap. (Pro tip: Doing this on a regular schedule is easy when you partner with a company specializing in this service.) The grease can then be recycled for a number of uses. This keeps the plumbing safe and helps the environment—a win-win situation for everyone involved.

If you need grease trap cleaning and grease removal service, Safeway Used Oil and Grease can help. Call us today to set up an appointment and learn more about our services.

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