The History of Grease Traps - Where it All Began

The History of Grease Traps - Where it All Began

Today, grease traps and the management of fats, oils and grease (FOG) are somewhat of an afterthought, but the need to contain potentially damaging by-products in drainage systems is as old as the creation of the drainage system itself.  

In this blog post, we’ll be taking a look at what exactly a grease trap is, when they were invented, and whether you need a grease trap.  


What Are Grease Traps?  

Grease traps are devices used to separate FOG materials from wastewater to avoid blockages in the public sewer system. They operate on the rather simple premise that fats, oils and greases of any kind don’t mix with water.  

FOG materials are roughly 10-15% less dense than water and will therefore float on the surface. Grease traps work by effectively skimming this floating material and trapping it, so that it can be disposed of separately and safely, without forming deposits in the public sewer system that cause costly blockages.  

A prime example of the poor use of grease traps was found in the London sewer system in 2017, near a collection of food-related businesses. Sewer engineers in Whitechapel came across a ‘fatberg’ more than 800 feet long and weighing in the region of 130 metric tons. Engineers faced an unenviable 13-week slog to remove it safely.  

The Whitechapel fatberg was an extreme example, but accumulations are commonplace in major city sewer systems where proper FOG collection is not implemented and become costly to remove as well as causing health and environmental issues for the public.  


Grease Trap History 

Grease traps as we know them are a product of the Victorian era. While Roman sewer systems far predate our modern solutions, they relied on considerably less humane methods – sending slaves and prisoners into their sewers to clean them by hand.  

The first patent for a modern grease trap design was issued to Nathanial T. Whiting of San Francisco, California in October 1884.  

His simplistic design is still echoed in the grease traps of today and involves passing FOG-carrying water slowly through a chamber designed to allow the FOG to separate from the water, where it could be collected and disposed of. The cleaned water is then allowed to flow back out into the sewer.  


Are Grease Traps Required by Law in the UK?  

Grease traps, in the UK, are a legal requirement for any business serving hot food under the British Building Regulations. It’s the business operator’s responsibility to ensure that their FOG discharge is not posing a risk to the public sewer system.  

In total, six pieces of UK and EU legislation lay out the responsibility of food service businesses to effectively manage their FOG waste and prevent it from harming the sewer network or posing a health or environmental risk. These include the British Building Regulations, the Water Industry Act (1991), the Environmental Protection Act (1990), the Building Act (1984), the Food Safety Act (1990) and the Animal By-Products Regulations EC 1774/2002.  

So, as you can imagine, the installation and proper maintenance of a grease trap on a food premises is quite tightly regulated and highly important.  

It’s also a requirement for grease traps to comply with relevant safety standards and to be designed within certain legal tolerances.  

All of this might seem like overkill, but the potential side effects of wastewater contamination by FOG materials are disastrous for public health, the environment and our sewer systems.  


Grease Trap Installation in the UK  

At Goodflo, we specialise in the installation and servicing of the very latest in grease trap technology in the UK. With more than 20 years of experience and competitive prices, we’re hard to beat for service, quality, or price.  

For any questions about your grease trap needs just get in touch with us today. You can fill out our easy contact form, call us on 01926 334466, or email us at

Viewed: 2965