In this expert guide the industrial wastewater treatment specialists at Water Treatment Services look at how waste, wastewater and trade effluent issues affect food retailers, manufacturing and food processing businesses in the UK. The guide looks at the definition of trade effluent, who has responsibility for its treatment and disposal, and what exemptions exist. It concludes by highlighting opportunities for environmental improvement and cost reduction in the food sector.
Treating wastewater and trade effluent in the food and food processing sectors
You won’t be surprised to learn that there are thousands of food related businesses in the UK.
In the UK the food sector covers everything from your tiny high street café employing one or two people to huge multinationals producing the big brand foods which line the supermarket shelves.
Food wastewater and effluent treatment
To protect people and the environment there are numerous regulations in place which affect how food businesses treat their wastewater, or effluent (trade effluent).
For the most basic food businesses the simplest way of getting rid of water containing food waste and other impurities might be to flush it down the sink and into the drains.
However, this can only be done if you have got permission from your water and sewerage company first.
They will usually ask you to sign what is called a trade effluent consent or agreement which will place limits on both the type of waste you put into the sewers, and the quantity.
What is trade effluent?
All businesses, whatever sector they operate in will usually produce waste in liquid form.
However, there is a very strict definition of what is and what is not considered to be trade effluent.
Any wastewater which is classed as domestic sewage, i.e. it comes from staff or customer toilets, wastewater from showers or hand-washing basins is considered to be domestic waste and not trade effluent.
Any rainwater which drains off your roof and into the drainage system is not classed as effluent either.
All other liquid waste is classed as trade effluent and is subject to certain rules and regulations.
What are your legal responsibilities when it comes to disposing of food associated effluent?
The legal position is quite clear when it comes to an organisation’s responsibility for the waste it produces.
Legally, the buck stops with you when it comes to disposing of waste… it’s your responsibility and it must be treated correctly.
Most food companies will choose to use a third party to help them with recycling, treating or reprocessing.
It is your responsibility to check that the waste management company you are thinking of using is legally registered to provide waste and wastewater disposal services.
If your chosen waste contractor doesn’t come up to scratch, you could still be prosecuted if there are problems.
The producer of the waste is liable from the date the waste is produced until the date it is fully recycled.
That makes it more important than ever to do your due diligence on any waste disposal company you are thinking of using, and ask all the difficult questions about their procedures, treatment and disposal methods up front.
Keeping records of wastewater treatment and disposal
As a responsible food business, should you run into any problems with your chosen company for waste management, it’s essential to be able to prove what they took away, and how they agreed to reprocess it.
Most waste management companies will fill in collection slips, keep a copy for their own records and give a copy to whoever they speak to at your organisation… all collection slips must be signed.
These paper records should be retained for at least two years.
An inspector from the Environment Agency or Local Council has the right to ask to see your waste records at any time.
Are there exemptions for wastewater treatment based on location?
Depending on your location in the country and type of food businesses, there may be exemptions to the general regulations.
For example, small cafes or restaurants producing just a few kilos of waste food per week are allowed to install a macerator to flush it through the public sewerage system.
However, this exemption usually only applies in areas which don’t offer a food waste collection service.
Do not assume that guidance you read for other countries or even for other parts of the UK apply in your case.
Get advice from an independent wastewater and trade effluent specialist such as Water Treatment Services, or speak to the Environmental Health Department at your local council.
Are there exemptions for treatment based on the type of food business?
Furthermore, there are certain types of food related businesses which have different rules around treating water and wastewater.
Food wastewater which is discharged from takeaway restaurants, pubs, hotels or caravan parks is typically not classed as trade effluent.
However, owners of these types of establishments aren’t off the hook when it comes to the disposal of their wastewater.
The Water Industry Act still applies, and pubs or takeaways found to be discharging oil or fats into the sewers could still end up in trouble with the law.
However, it’s best not to get caught up in the specifics of which law applies.
All businesses have to take their waste management responsibilities seriously and deal with it responsibly and in accordance with the law.
Minimising trade effluent in the food and food processing sectors
Treating wastewater and trade effluent streams in food and food processing businesses can be very expensive.
Therefore it makes sense to start at the source of the waste, and see if there’s anything that can be done to reduce the amount of waste and wastewater your operation produces.
This could be as simple as training staff not to rinse fats down the sink, but to scrape them into the bin instead.
Tips for dealing with wastewater and macerated food sludge
Other ideas for minimising issues with wastewater or macerated food sludge include the following:
Help and assistance for food and food processing businesses
There is lots of help available for businesses dealing with issues around the treatment and disposal of waste, wastewater and trade effluent from food and food production businesses.
Wastewater and trade effluent specialists such as Water Treatment Services can provide expert solutions including water testing, process evaluation and plant design that can help to optimise processes, reduce trade effluent charges and waste disposal costs.
Many of the regulatory functions are devolved to different areas in the UK, so the regulatory body you would approach will depend on where your food business is located.
- England – The Environment Agency
- Scotland – Scottish Environment Protection Agency
- Wales – Natural Resources Wales
- Northern Ireland – Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs
Wastewater treatment training
The industrial and process water treatment specialists at Water Treatment Services have developed an extensive series of professional water and wastewater treatment training courses that includes WTS 0070 “Industrial Wastewater”.
This specialist wastewater treatment training course comprises an intensive one day session designed for plant operators, environmental process engineers, maintenance and engineering contractors, and those with responsibility for the operation and management of industrial wastewater treatment systems.
Specialist wastewater and trade effluent solutions for the food sector
Water Treatment Services offer a comprehensive range of trade effluent and wastewater management solutions.
Find out how we can help reduce your costs, achieve regulatory compliance and improve environmental performance.
Our wastewater experts can provide advice and full support to help you identify the most appropriate strategies for managing your industrial wastewater and effluent streams.
With offices in London serving the South and South East England, Manchester (North West), Birmingham (Midlands), Bristol (South East England and Wales), Leeds (North and North East) and Glasgow (Scotland), supported by regional teams of specially trained engineers, wastewater specialists and technicians we offer cost effective environmental support solutions across the whole of the UK and Ireland.
Contact us today to learn how our expert wastewater management solutions can help improve environmental performance, reduce costs and achieve cost effective discharge consent standards.
More information about our wastewater and trade effluent testing.