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A grease trap (also known as grease interceptor, grease recovery device, grease capsule and grease converter) is a plumbing device (a type of trap) designed to intercept most greases and solids before they enter a wastewater disposal system. Common wastewater contains small amounts of oils which enter into septic tanks and treatment facilities to form a floating scum layer. This scum layer is very slowly digested and broken down by microorganisms in the anaerobic digestion process. Large amounts of oil from food preparation in restaurants can overwhelm a septic tank or treatment facility, causing release of untreated sewage into the environment. High-viscosity fats and cooking grease such as lard solidify when cooled, and can combine with other disposed solids to block drain pipes.
Grease traps have been used since Victorian days: Nathaniel Whiting obtained the first patent in the late 1800’s. The traps reduce the amount of fats, oils and greases (FOGs) that enter sewers. They comprise boxes within the drain run that flows between the sinks in a kitchen and the sewer system. They only have kitchen waste water flowing through them, and do not serve any other drainage system, such as toilets.
The most common passive grease traps are smaller, point-of-use units used under three-compartment sinks or adjacent to dishwashers in kitchens.
Passive grease traps and passive grease interceptors must be emptied and cleaned when 25% full.
Depending on the country, nearly all municipalities require commercial kitchen operations to use some type of interceptor device to collect grease before it enters sewers. Where FOG is a concern in the local wastewater system, communities have established inspection programs to ensure that these grease traps and/or interceptors are being routinely maintained.