The City of Whitehorse is considering tougher rules for getting rid of cooking oils and grease for restaurants and homeowners.
A proposed sewer and storm utility bylaw, which was presented to city council on Monday, seeks to decrease the amount of grease and fat build-up in the city’s sewer mains.
Among the changes is an official ban on kitchen garburators, and stricter enforcement of grease traps for restaurants. The new rules are not retroactive, so houses that already have garburators won’t be penalized, but they won’t be allowed in new units.
City maintenance supervisor Dave Albisser explained that the bylaw changes to grease traps will make it easier for the city to enforce regular cleaning and prevent waste grease from ending up going down the drain.
“Grease traps have been required by the city for a number of years, so they’re actually already in place. But we haven’t been actively enforcing that to a large degree,” Albisser said.
“Now we’re finding increased loading of grease in our system. It’s plugging things up and causing some real problems. So we’re looking to increase enforcement,” he said.
The new rules would see restaurants required to clean their grease traps regularly and keep a record of the work to prove it’s being done properly.
The bylaw also contains stronger language discouraging restaurants, especially those with deep fryers, from dumping their used oil in the city compost at the landfill.
“The grease can be composted in smaller amounts. We don’t really want to see large volumes. If there’s a large amount of oil being disposed of from a deep frying operation, we would prefer that other avenues be used,” he said.
Disposing of used fry oil can be a serious challenge for some restaurants.
Local McDonald’s franchise owner Mike Thorpe said his company has strict environmental policies that require him to send his used oil to a certified recycling centre. The Yukon doesn’t have one, so that means shipping it south.
“Right now it’s being hauled down to Alberta for recycling. It’s a significant cost for us,” Thorpe said.
“There isn’t any used oil recycling service in the Yukon, because it’s a very large volume-based business. We have it somewhere like the Lower Mainland, but it’s not up here because there just isn’t the volume to support it,” Thorpe said.
For smaller local shops, there’s another option. A number of businesses and private citizens in town run their vehicles with diesel engines converted to burn used cooking oil.
That’s what Lil’s Place does. As owner Lisa (Lil) Jodoin explained, she donates all the used deep fryer oil to a resident with a converted car. She also doesn’t go through as much oil as other restaurants, so giving the oil away is the easiest to do.
“We don’t go through as much oil as other restaurants do. It also depends on what you’re frying. For example, if you’re doing corn dogs, they tend to break the oil down quicker than, say, French fries do,” she said.
Albisser said the city isn’t worried about restaurants dumping used oil straight into the sewers, and haven’t seen any evidence of it happening. That’s likely because, from everything he and his department have seen, there’s a surprisingly high demand for used fryer oil for use as a fuel, he said. It can even be used in some modified oil burning furnaces for heat in the winter.
The bylaw will go to first reading next week.
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