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Saturday, October 3, 2015

Ei Airborne Kitchen Grease Initiative Announced

After diligent work for nearly three years, Elemental Impact formalized the Ei Airborne Kitchen Grease Initiative (AKG), a proactive approach to a costly cooking by-product, with a four-stage action plan. A formal Ei AKG Initiative launch via a press conference is slated once funding is secured.

To date, focus was on the foodservice operator, the AKG generator, with a solid platform built on cost-savings and environmental rewards. For the Ei AKG Initiative, the focus is educating communities on the municipal cost-savings associated with 1> preventing AKG from flowing into sewer systems post-cleaning and 2> increased fire safety resulting in fewer fire department responses for grease fires.

AKG Overview:

KES image from
Best Sheet Metal, Inc.
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. 

AKG accumulated in
KES ducts
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 kitchen sinks or other drains; the traps | interceptors flow capacity is exceeded by up to 12X. Thus, the 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 and constrict flow, which can 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 not deposited within the KES or on the roof flows into the local atmosphere and impacts two of the six EPA National Ambient Air Quality Standards: Ozone (O3) and Particulate Matter
A "fatberg" pulled from an Atlanta sewer drain.
A “fatberg” pulled from an Atlanta
sewer drain.
courtesy of  Atlanta Intown article
In her September Intown Atlanta article, Above the Waterline: The Tip of the "Fatberg," Sally Bethea describes how grease and disposable wipes are wreaking costly havoc in Atlanta and beyond sewer systems. Sally quotes a London water official, “If fat is like the mortar, wet wipes are the bricks in fatbergs,” 

Per Sally, the flow of untreated sewage and wastewater that backs up behind these gooey blobs has to go somewhere, so it spews from the pipes through manholes and cracks and spills into nearby creeks.

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. 

AKG deposited on roof
photo courtesy of GLF
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.
Report Cover
As the Sustainable Food Court Initiative 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 the Atlanta area.

Ei Partner HMSHost participated in the initial AKG Pilot to support the cost-savings report at one of their ATL restaurants. Subsequently, HMSHost executed a contract with GLF for anticipated national implementation. The independent engineers report Cost Savings in Commercial Kitchens By Using Grease Lock Filters, A Report on Restaurant Pilots is downloadable on the AKG Stage 1: Building the Foundation website page.

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.

Ei AKG Initiative Stages:

The Ei AKG Initiative Action Plan flows in the following four stages:

AKG is a cooking byproduct
The work within the Stage 1: Building the Foundation is substantially complete. Once funding is secure, Ei will move forward with the City of Atlanta on developing the City-Wide AKG Template, including a press conference to mark the official launch. A second city will serve as the template replication pilot to support the national expansion plan. 

Although the initial Ei AKG Initiative focus is cost-savings, the environmental impact is the essence. Cost-savings is a strong, immediate motivator for the community and business owners to take action. Via the AKG metrics platform the water, grease and toxic-cleaning agent-savings are available to quantify the long-term environmental impact. 

It is imperative to document the extensive AKG environmental impact with scientific research and educate communities, businesses and citizens on the far-reaching ramifications of current AKG reactive practices. A simple proactive approach is available that makes good business sense for the entire value chain, including the water and soil microbial communities.

Ei AKG Initiative Documentation:

In true Ei style, AKG-related work to date is well-documented in the following blog articles:

The following is a common phrase used to describe Ei initiatives:

Ei is a creator, an incubator.
Ei determines what could be done that is not being done and gets it done.
Ei brings the possible out of impossible.
Ei identifies pioneers and creates heroes.

Stay tuned as the Ei AKG Pioneers segue into heroes and bring the possible out of the impossible!

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