For many of those who work in the grease management industry, either on the receiving end like ourselves or the producing end like restaurant managers, associate grease traps and interceptors as an excess of oil, not as a scarcity. But while today grease traps are mandatory to protect the infrastructure and environment, their rise to import at the beginning of the 20th century was for the exact opposite reason: not enough grease. Ken Loucks of Interceptor Whisperer fame goes over this in detail in his article Born of necessity, the mother of invention, and we break down some of the basics below.
Shortages and Rationing of World War II
As the United States dragged itself out of the Great Depression, it found itself switching to a wartime economy: supply lines were cut and military manufacturing was consuming large parts of the economy. Constant shortages and rationing plagued the country, and not just for civilians. A need to send off meat to the war and a critical lack of imports meant a sudden scarcity of both oil and fat. While today you might not think that important, the basic components of these products went in everything from soap to machinery lubrication to explosives.
The American Fat Salvage Campaign
By 1943, butter, oils, and fats were already being rationed. To assist in getting the war effort as much as they could, the American Fat Salvage Committee was born: focused on getting US civilians – namely housewives – to salvage cooking fat and grease and return it to their local butcher (at the payout of 4 cents a pound). Propaganda for the campaign talked a lot about using the fats for explosive-making glycerin, but it was also used in food production, as well as medicines, textiles, and more.
The Military Starts Grease Recycling… Sort of
Of course, the military did more than its fair share of cooking and was also charged to capture and recycle grease for these same uses. However, while they had grease interceptors in military kitchens, they were found to be inadequate for the purpose. Each manufacture of the traps had their own standards and ratings, and were built around inconsistent engineering and plumbing specifications. The military turned to the Army Corps of Engineers, which in turn turned to their sub-office in the Iowa Institute of Hydraulic Research.
Iowa Institute of Hydraulic Research
In a series of conferences with the Army Corps of Engineers, the Quartermaster General, the Surgeon General, the Research Committee for the Plumbing and Drainage Manufacturer’s Association and staff at the Institute, this committee put together the research and criteria needed to make grease traps that worked, and got them into military kitchens around the world by 1944, with every interceptor for military use having to get a rating certificate from the Institute first.
This uniform set of guidelines for how grease traps should function and be tested has a legacy even today, and the grandchildren of these tests and rules have produced the modern generations of grease traps and interceptors. If you’re looking for specialist in the maintenance or a replacement of that interceptor from WWII, contact the Food Grease Trappers. We are knowledgeable about local laws and regulations and can help troubleshoot any problems, even if it’s really, really gross.