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Saturday, August 17, 2013

GREASE: a new frontier filled with economic & environmental promise

airborne grease generated in
stove top high heat saute
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 that evacuates heat, grease effluent, moisture and smoke from the cooking area. Consisting of a hood, baffle filters, ducts and exhaust fan, the kitchen exhaust system must be monitored and maintained in accordance with the codes.

Most kitchen exhaust systems are inspected monthly or quarterly and require a system cleaning due to grease build-up. On average an exhaust system cleaning uses approximately 350 gallons of water along with toxic chemicals necessary to remove grease from the system. In addition the metal baffle filters are generally cleaned nightly, requiring labor, water and toxic cleaning chemicals.

GLF collects grease particulates
before they enter the exhaust system
The post-cleaning greasy, toxic water is released through the operator's grease trap or directly into the local sewer system. Either way the toxic chemicals flow into the local water treatment system or directly into waterways.

Elemental Impact Partner Ellis Fibre (EF) manufactures a patented, disposable grease filter that is placed in front of the baffle filters. EF's Grease Lock Filters (GLF) collect 90% plus of the kitchen grease particulates before entering the kitchen exhaust system. By eliminating grease build-up in the system, the nightly baffle filter cleaning is generally reduced to weekly; the number of third party contracted kitchen exhaust system cleanings are significantly reduced.

HMSHost-operated Pei Wei @
ATL Airport participated in pilot
To substantiate and quantify the water, labor and toxic chemical savings, Ei joined forces with Compliance Solutions International for a three-restaurant, eight-week GLF system pilot. The Water, Chemical, & Cost Savings in Commercial Kitchens By Using Grease Lock Filters, A Report on Restaurant Pilots prepared by Jay Parikh, CSI president is available for download on the Ei GREASE - Grease Recycling & Energy Alternative Solutions for the Environment, Water Use | Toxicity and Reference Materials website pages.

Each of the pilot restaurants realized a cost-savings by installing the GLF system and chose to continue using the filters post pilot. Cost-savings were derived from reduced labor hours, fewer third party contracted cleanings, and reduced water usage and sewage treatment charges. The big winner is the local community who benefits from lower commercial water demand and a reduction in toxic chemicals entering the sewer system and|or waterways.

grease build-up on roofs casues
 costly repairs & maintenance
In addition, the GLF approach to Airborne Kitchen Grease (AKG) enhances fire safety, reduces roof repairs & maintenance caused by grease accumulation, increases HVAC energy efficiency with cleaner fan blades and other moving parts, and lowers the community's carbon footprint due to fewer cleanings by contracted third party kitchen exhaust system maintenance companies.

As a Sustainable Food Court Initiative Atlanta Airport Pilot team member, Ei Partner HMSHost agreed for Pei Wei, located in the International Terminal, to participate in the pilot. Working closely with the HMSHost team, Kyle Mastin - airport concessionaire manager - was impressed with the GLF pilot results at Pei Wei.

At an Ei | Atlanta Airport meeting last week, Kyle showcased the pilot success with enthusiasm for broader use at the airport. The ZWA Blog post, GREASE: Activating the Zero Waste Evolution, introduces the GREASE task force and mentions the airport's interest in assessing the grease generated at the terminal concessionaires along with potential on-site energy options.

GREASE Team @ ATL Airport
In the ZWA Blog post, Zero WATER Waste: more than a goal, a necessity, Ei set the foundation for launching the Water Usage | Toxicity focus area. Within the post, the GLF system is introduced along with a grease scenario and system overview.

As a proactive solution to AKG, Ei intends to support the widespread use of the GLF in commercial kitchens with a three-tier approach:

  1. Installation of GLF systems - goal is to establish a metrics tracking system to quantify the economic and environmental impact for the foodservice operator and the community at-large.
  2. Certification of filter compostability - filters are made of lambs wool with no metal; EF intends to pursue the ASTM Standards testing required by BPI in their compostable packaging certification program.
  3. Utilization of grease captured in filters - grease is valuable in waste to energy technologies; determine how to best use the grease captured in the filters, whether extracted or within the filters.
GREASE is entering a new industry frontier with Ei leading the charge. Stay tuned as Ei determines the economic benefits, substantiates the environmental stewardship and develops an industry-wide action plan for kitchen exhaust system grease. EXCITING TIMES, indeed!


  1. It’s best to clean your workplaces at all times, especially if you work in the food industry. If a greasy exhaust vent is not on top of your priority list, you might want to reconsider. A clean kitchen means a better working environment and ensures that all the things coming from the kitchen are not “seasoned” by the vent’s dirt and such.

    Staci Severns