Home Air Quality Transition to Greener, Cleaner Alternatives to Toxic Chafing Dish Fuel Gel

Transition to Greener, Cleaner Alternatives to Toxic Chafing Dish Fuel Gel

Glenn Hasek

Dumping toxic waste. That is what most of our industry has been doing for years with partially used cans of chafing dish fuel gel. I wrote about the problem two and one-half years ago. According to industry experts, that is still happening. Most chafing dish fuel gels found today are made from corn-based ethanol, methanol and other additives to help the product burn hotter. Methanol is added to make it too toxic for consumption. Fuel gel using methanol and other additives is considered hazardous waste and should be treated as such. Methanol gel is poisonous and contains dioxin and emits nitrous oxide, arsenic, carbon monoxide and excessive carbon dioxide when burned. It is dangerous to touch and dangerous to the environment when containers end up in the landfill. There, they leach their poisons into the water table. The emissions from most fuel gel today are not only potentially hazardous to those who work around it; they can also impact the taste and quality of the food the gels are working to heat. Most fuel gel is also a significant fire hazard.

In my article posted this past week I highlight several portable food heating and warming solutions that are safer and that can save you money. One system is electric, one uses natural gas, and the other is a gel free of alcohol and petroleum content. Be sure to read the article.

It is pretty amazing how addicted our industry is to fuel gels. One industry expert told me some properties buy it by the pallet. That is a lot of potential landfill waste.

Do consider the alternatives to the toxic gels that I present. They are much more efficient. With SMART Buffet Ware’s electric SMART Induction Warmer, for example, 98 percent of the heat from the SMART Induction Warmer heats the food. With some gel burners 78 percent of the fire is heating the atmosphere and not the food. “The average cost of canned fuel is $1.52,” says David Moreland, “Chief Bottle Washer” at SMART Buffet Ware. “It lasts for two hours. On average, our system costs 10 to 12 cents per hour.”

Adjustable Heat, Remains Cool to the Touch

Unlike heaters that use gel and wick heat sources, eco-burner Ltd.’s Chafo is a highly efficient burner that can be refilled with natural gas fuel from a recyclable aerosol can. The heat output is adjustable and can last five to 7.5 hours. It remains cool to the touch, extinguishes if knocked over, turns itself off if detecting heat buildup, and is wind resistant. According to John Horgan, Founding Investor & Director of eco-burner Ltd., his company’s chafing system has been independently tested by Carbon Footprint which has verified that there is a greater than 75 percent reduction in carbon emissions when switching from traditional chafing fuels to the Chafo.

“There is no fuel waste and the fuel is natural gas,” Horgan says. “There is a much better carbon footprint. A much higher percentage of the heat goes where it needs to go. You turn it on when you need it. You turn it off when you need it.”

Horgan says the Chafo can reduce costs by 20 to 30 percent when compared to gel alternatives. The Chafo also presents a much safer option. “Chemical burners were invented for the First World War and are dangerous,” Horgan says. “They should be disposed of as chemical waste.”

The third alternative to the traditional canned gels explored in my article is Organica from ECOFuel Worldwide. The fuel is made using an enzyme-derived glycol that comes from plant fructose. According to Dennis Paul, President and CEO of ECOFuel Worldwide, Organica provides at least one and one-half the burn time of alcohol fuels. A single burner lasts up to two and one-half hours with full visible flame. ECOFuel Worldwide’s cans are refillable, reducing the tremendous volume of can waste to landfills. While gels made from alcohol have a short shelf life of eight months, Organica has a stable shelf life of five years.

Hoteliers often like to do things the way they always have been done. Continuing to use hazardous fuel gel, however, is not good for the environment, your employees or your bottom line.

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