Fats, oils, and grease are bad for pipes and sewers
When fats, oils, and grease are flushed down sinks and drains, they harden and lead to serious blockages. This can cause significant and costly damage to plumbing systems and the region’s sewer system. For restaurants and homeowners, this can mean costly sewage backups, plumbing repairs, extensive renovations, and restaurant closures.
The build-up of fats, oils, and grease in sewers contributes to sewage overflows, damaging surrounding homes and businesses, and harming the environment. Metro Vancouver spends at least $2.7 million every year to repair damage caused by grease in the sewer system — money that could be spent on vital improvements to the region’s sewers to better protect the environment and increase resiliency to climate change.
Residents and food sector businesses can help
The main source of fats, oils, and grease entering the sewer system comes from food sector establishments and residential homes. Metro Vancouver and its member jurisdictions have observed that the majority of grease issues occur within commercial districts that have a high concentration of restaurants — with 79 per cent of these issues occurring in commercial areas, 16 per cent in residential areas, and five per cent in mixed use areas.
Metro Vancouver informs residents about the harmful effects of grease and their role in disposing of it in their green bin through
public education campaigns.
To manage fats, oils, and grease coming from food sector businesses, Metro Vancouver adopted a
Food Sector Grease Interceptor Bylaw in 2012, and updated it in 2023. Grease interceptors separate fats, oils, and grease from wastewater and help prevent them from entering the sewer system. The bylaw outlines sizing and maintenance requirements for grease interceptors, as well as what fixtures must be attached to the grease interceptor.
Properly sized and maintained grease interceptors protect the region’s sewer system—and by doing that, they protect the environment and neighbouring homes and businesses from sewer overflows. All food sector establishments are required by law to have a properly sized and maintained grease interceptor.
Food Sector Grease Interceptor Bylaw review
In 2018, Metro Vancouver initiated a review of the bylaw to ensure it was up to date, provide more clarity about bylaw requirements, and better reflect current food industry operations. As part of this review, Metro Vancouver engaged with stakeholders such as food industry representatives, plumbers, member municipalities, and grease interceptor manufacturers and maintenance providers about how changes to the bylaw, fees, and other requirements might affect them.
Based on this feedback — and with the support of these stakeholders — several proposed changes to the bylaw were developed. In part, the changes would remove certain restrictions and requirements to give the food industry more flexibility to comply with the bylaw and conduct business, while still protecting the sewer system and the environment.
As the bylaw review was nearing completion in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic occurred, creating challenging conditions for the food and hospitality industry. For this reason, Metro Vancouver put the bylaw update on hold, allowing the food sector to focus on day-to-day business during this difficult time. The bylaw review resumed in 2023.
Food Sector Grease Interceptor Bylaw engagement
Extensive engagement was conducted on the bylaw review between 2018 and 2019.
A final round of engagement with current members of industry was held between February 17 and March 10, 2023 through an online survey.
Thank you to everyone who took the time to share their valuable input on the proposed bylaw changes throughout the review process. All feedback was considered and used to inform the updates to the Food Sector Grease Interceptor Bylaw, approved by the Metro Vancouver Board on September 29, 2023.
Food Sector Grease Interceptor Bylaw Final Engagement Summary outlines key themes and feedback received during all three phases of engagement.
Food Sector Grease Interceptor Bylaw No. 365 amendments
The following bylaw changes were developed, discussed, and generally agreed upon during engagement meetings with stakeholders, and are now in effect.
Updated definitions of food sector establishments
The bylaw has been updated to include markets and commissary kitchens (a commercial kitchen rented by local food service operators, such as caterers and bakers). This ensures that these emerging sectors are regulated alongside traditional restaurants.
Updated which fixtures must and must not be connected to a grease interceptor
added the following fixtures to the “must be connected to a grease interceptor” section of the bylaw:
- Funnel/hub drains — a type of drain that services grease-bearing fixtures, and therefore needs be connected to a grease interceptor
- Dishwashers (for new builds and converted spaces only) — dishwashers are grease-bearing fixtures and need to be connected to grease interceptors. However, to help reduce the burden of extensive retrofits on existing food sector businesses, this requirement would only apply to new builds and spaces newly converted to support food service
removed the following fixtures from the “must be connected to a grease interceptor” section of the bylaw:
- Floor drains and mop sinks — in response to feedback from industry representatives, this requirement is being removed from the bylaw, as floor drains and mop sinks generally pose a lower risk to sewer blockages. Removing this requirement helps reduce the burden of extensive retrofits on food sector businesses since sub-floor construction may require additional structural and seismic considerations
removed the following fixtures from the “must not be connected to a grease interceptor” section of the bylaw:
- Hand sinks — many food sector businesses have hand sinks connected to grease interceptors, which is not necessary but generally harmless. Removing this requirement helps reduce the burden of extensive retrofits on food sector businesses
Added more flexibility for selecting a grease interceptor
We updated the bylaw’s language about grease interceptor testing and rating requirements. This change gives business owners more clarity and flexibility to select the right grease interceptor for their needs.
Updated fees to reflect today’s costs
This is the first fee increase since the adoption of the bylaw in 2012. The following fees have increased to reflect the current costs to conduct these activities.