Next time you're tempted to pour leftover cooking oil down the sink, think again. The largest ever clean-up of its kind took place in the sewers of central London. With an estimated 1,000 tonnes of putrid fat and waste dug out from the area under Leicester Square, (enough to fill nine London Double Decker buses). According to Thames Water, the company responsible for London sewers, the build-up, which they nickname "fatbergs", is the result of accumulated 'sewer abuse': when anything other than water, human waste or toilet paper is put down drains.
The company has launched a campaign, "Bin it, don't Block it", to highlight the scale of the problem.
If you've ever had cooking fat solidify in your kitchen sink, you'll know how hard the stuff is to get rid of. Imagine the muck multiplied by several thousands, and you'll get an idea of how colossal - and stomach-turning - the cleanup mission was. Chief flusher Danny Brackley shares how his team gets rid of London's leftover fat - and how people can help "unclog the city's arteries".
" We know from experience that most products which claim to be flushable, such as wet wipes, tampons, or cotton buds, in fact aren't. Just because you can wash them down your sink or flush them doesn't mean you should - it could come back to haunt you if your sewage overflows! Every year, 7,000 homes and gardens across London and the Thames Valley get sewer-flooded. Most overflows could be avoided if people cut out sewer abuse.
Pouring cooking fat down the drain is also a big mistake, because it solidifies in the pipes after it is poured away and forms an obstruction. Instead of pouring leftover cooking oil down the drain, wait for it to solidify and throw it in the bin. Also, avoid washing rice or peas and other small edibles down your kitchen sink.
Today's fatty sewers are a result of our current fast-food lifestyle, which is gorged with hydrogenated fats you didn't find in food back when London's sewer system was built. Our sewers get clogged with fat in the same way that our arteries do. By watching out for what you pour down the drain, you're also watching out for your city's sewer's "health", so to speak.
The message is simple. If it’s not water, toilet tissue or poo, please.... Bin it - don't block it.
'Bin it - don't block it' is the Thames Water campaign to educate people about sewer abuse - which is putting anything other than human waste or loo roll down drains.
Video posted on Youtube by Thames Water
Here are Thames Water's five top tips to keep your drains flowing:
Love your loo: Make sure that only waste-water, toilet tissue and human waste goes down your drains and into the sewer.
Think - not in the sink! After cooking, fat, oil and grease should be left to cool - it can then be disposed of in the bin or mixed with seeds and nuts to make a feeder for birds.
Chemicals, solvents, engine oil and paint should be taken to your local refuse site.
Medicines, tablets, syringes and needles should be taken to your pharmacist, local hospital or health authority for safe disposal.
Photo: Thames Water
Ecobites is a non profit website. Please consider supporting our efforts with a small donation between $5 to $10. Corporations can request a sponsorship package.