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Spotlight on Award Winners: Atlanta Int’l Airport Captures Tons of Airborne Kitchen Grease

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This article is sponsored by Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

The kitchen exhaust systems that evacuate heat, grease effluent, and smoke from cooking areas of restaurants use a large amount of energy, water, degreasers and chemicals – and for an airport the size of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), with concessionaires that service 94 million people annually, that accounts for a significant expenditure of funds and labor.

top project of the year resizedIn 2011, ATL – winner of an Environmental Leader Top Project of the Year Award – put into place a Sustainable Management Plan which dictated sustainability goals through 2020. Goals include achieving a 20% reduction in energy, water, and GHG, as well as achieving zero waste by 2020. With the management plan in mind, ATL decided to roll out a campus-wide Airborne Kitchen Grease Recovery Program using the GreaseLock Filter System, a patented disposable filter designed to capture and remove grease particulate emissions produced during commercial kitchen cooking operations. GLF is compostable and can also be used as a renewable energy source when diverted from the landfill and disposed using anaerobic digestion. The GLF system is made from New Zealand sheep wool due to the high level of porosity. The sheep are sheared twice annually, which makes it a renewable resource, and the frame is constructed of biodegradable resins.

Because it captures 43,000 pounds of grease annually, a number of preliminary tests were required to ensure it would meet fire and safety standards. ATL Fire department conducted a series of burn and torch tests. The GLF impressed the Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) team, met National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 96 standards, and was cleared by the Department of Health.

ATL restaurants engaging in the program needed nothing more than a 10-minute, $400 retrofit to the existing metal baffle filter, making it an inexpensive opportunity for restaurants to operate more sustainably and communicate their commitment towards meeting their sustainability goals.

A beta test was conducted with two restaurants for a period of 1.5 years. Upon completion, the results showed a 95% reduction of airborne kitchen grease, 75% reduction in hood vent cleanings, 70% reduction in water consumed per hood and per metal baffle filter, 70% reduction of chemicals and degreasers, and a reduction in roof deterioration from grease escaping the fan. The results prompted ATL to roll out the program throughout the campus.

ATL expects the program to save as much as 1,100,000 gallons of water, over $650,000 throughout the Central Passenger Terminal Complex, and reduce the amount chemicals and degreasers. The program is also improving operational efficiency and extending thermoplastic membrane roof life. “The project effort at a world class airport encompassing a large footprint and workforce is challenging. The design and results to capture a very large quantity of waste for recycling has great potential at airports worldwide,” said one Environmental Leader Product & Project Awards judge.

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