Innovative thinking to rid sewers of unwanted fats, oils and greases

Appealing to householders to take care on what they pour down the sink is always something United Utilities look to do.

Blockages from unwanted fats, oils and greases (FOG) being washed into the public sewer network is a major issues when it solidifies, causing solid masses of congealed fat to block-up the network.

One of the latest innovative initiatives by the company to help save the sewers was recently nominated for a Gordon Marsden MP green award.

The project ran by United Utilities Innovation Team challenged children from four schools in Blackpool to see how much fat, oil and grease they could collect.

Each school was given their own FOG disposal point and plastic funnels, as well as an education workshop and assembly about the damage fats, oils and grease have on the sewer network.

Mike Wood, network business manager, who presented the children from Hawes Side Academy with their winning prize, said: “It’s safe to say the schools rose to the challenge and the winning school Hawes Side Academy in Blackpool collected an impressive 240 litres.

“It’s been in the media recently about the 130 tonne fatberg found blocking a sewer in London. This is not an isolated case, as blockages of this kind happen regularly across the North West.

“When fat and things like wet wipes combine inside a pipe they set like concrete and can block it completely. We have a multi-million pound cleaning programme to try and keep them clear, but sometimes the first we know about a problem is when there’s a heavy downpour and it starts to flood.

“We want to help people learn how they can keep their drains healthy, because it might not be our sewers that block, it could be theirs. The children from all four schools did a fantastic job, and we hope they can keep spreading the message about the dangers of pouring or flushing the wrong items away, and how fats, oils and grease can be recycled,” he said.

The collected fats, oils and greases was recycled and turned into biodiesel which is then be blended with regular diesel and can be found at your local fuel station.

United Utilities advice is never put fat or oil down your kitchen sink. Wait until it cools and mop it up with a kitchen towel and put it in the bin. The same goes for wet wipes, sanitary towels, cotton buds and especially nappies. They don’t dissolve like ordinary toilet paper.

“The only thing that should go down the toilet is the three Ps – pee, poo and paper (toilet paper that is) – everything else needs to go in the bin,” said Mike.

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How to prevent blocked drains

Blocked sinks and drains are a real pain, inconvenient and can be expensive for you to sort out. Often blockages are caused by fats and food scraps poured or washed down the kitchen sink, so they’re easy to prevent if you:   • Don’t pour fats from cooking food such as roasts or bacon down the sink, even small amounts can cause problems • Don’t let food scraps like rice, peas and beans go down the drain

Here are our top tips to help you keep your drains in tip top condition

• Before washing, pour or scrape fat and sauces (like gravy), from roasting trays, pans and plates into a heat resistant container, when cool put in the bin • Small amounts of grease left in pans or on plates can be wiped away with kitchen roll and thrown into the bin • Use a sink strainer to capture food scraps and put them in the bin • For larger quantities of oils, contact your local council who’ll let you know how to dispose of them and where your local recycling centre is.