Fuelled by food & fats

11 December 2014

Peter Ridley, managing director of Peter Ridley Waste Systems, outlines how technically advanced recycling systems can reduce wastage in the food industry and turn it into biofuel or renewable energy

The catering, food and hospitality industries use huge amounts of cooking oils and fats every day and these valuable materials can be re-used to produce various types of energy such as biodiesel – a solution to which the UK is committed to mitigate climate change. The circular economy concept is developing apace, whereby materials are retained within productive use for as long as possible, so we can stop being a throw-away society by ‘designing out’ waste.

Food outlets such as pubs, clubs, restaurants, hotels and canteens have a legal obligation for waste oil to be disposed of in a safe and environmentally-friendly way. They could dramatically reduce their wastage and improve their bottom line, by having the right facilities and equipment to recycle, rather than discard waste. 

The total amount of waste, including food, packaging and other ‘non-food’ waste produced each year at hospitality and food services outlets is 2.87 million tonnes.  According to the Waste and Resource Action Programme (WRAP) 46% is recycled, either sent to anaerobic digestion (AD) or composted. Reducing this waste can help save money as well as avoid environmental impact.

Measure and monitor materials 

Food waste and non-food waste should be collected in separate bins. This will help to measure the amount of different resources generated as well as making the recycling process simpler. Legislated targets are also encouraging waste to be collected separately. The EU Waste Framework Directive provides the legislative framework for the collection, transport, recovery and disposal of waste and requires member states to take the necessary measures to ensure waste is recovered where possible. 


Since January 2014, The Waste (Scotland) Regulations prioritise high quality recycling through the separate collection and processing of materials. Similar guidelines for the rest of the UK are being introduced in January 2015 to set up separate collections of paper, plastic, metal and glass as a minimum, unless it is not ‘Technically, Environmentally and Economically Practicable’ (TEEP) with reference to the separate collection of wastes destined for recovery operations. 

Getting the design of the bins right is essential. Incorrect types and numbers of bins can lead to the wrong waste going in the wrong bin. Adjusting the size of the bins or the frequency that they are collected can also save money.

FATBOXX is a user friendly wheeled container specially designed to collect a wide range of separated food-related materials including used cooking oil (UCO), fats and grease and food waste. One of the benefits for both commercial recycling companies and their catering sector customers is a measuring scale on the body of the translucent PE containers for used cooking oil. This enables customers to see how full the container is, whilst the recycling specialist can easily measure the level at the point of collection, enabling straightforward payment for the amount collected. Data capture can be linked to RFID chips inserted in the bin, to fully audit each collection following replacement with an empty container.

A lockable, sealed lid prevents leaks and unpleasant odours, as well as eliminating access to flies and pests. In contrast, standard plastic drums have a much shorter lifespan and spillages are common, whilst pouring used or waste cooking oil down the sink or drains can cause waste to congeal and block public sewers. The backed-up sewage can then spill into rivers and streams causing environmental damage. 

When choosing a collection method, catering and hospitality establishments should look for a system that can hold liquids as hot as 110 degrees without distorting the body of the container. 

Reprocessing of materials

Waste reduction targets and continued economic challenges have pushed responsible surplus food management to the fore. New systems and technology now exist to make that a priority– to monitor, measure, recycle and reuse food waste and used cooking oil. 

Once materials have been collected, coinciding with a clean bin replacement service, FATBOXX can be safely and securely transported to a depot. Mechanical inversion using a single or multi-bin platform hoisting device for emptying, is followed by a manual or automated hygienic cleaning process, made easier by the spherical shape of the bin body. The recovered food-related materials can be treated and processed into biofuel or renewable energy.