St Andrews drains '˜on a diet' to tackle fatberg problem

Action to combat giant fatbergs that block sewers, causing pollution and flooding, is being stepped up in Scotland.

More than half of all blockages in Scotlands sewers are caused by fats, oils and grease being disposed of incorrectly down drains and sinks
More than half of all blockages in Scotlands sewers are caused by fats, oils and grease being disposed of incorrectly down drains and sinks

Scottish Water is trialling a new strategy to tackle the problem, which occurs when fats are poured down drains then combine with other waste and congeal into a solid mass.

The new Fat Free Sewer project, the first of its kind in Scotland, is being tested in St Andrews.

The pilot scheme will see every food service establishment in the Fife town, including takeaways, cafes, restaurants and hotels, visited by food waste experts.

Businesses will be advised on the best ways to get rid of fats, oils and grease, (FOG) and advised whether their disposal methods are sufficient for their needs.

It is estimated that around eight in ten establishments have inadequate or no systems in place at all.

Where facilities are found to be inadequate, inspectors will offer advice on improvements and return later to check necessary action has been taken.

St Andrews was picked for the six-month initiative as it has more than 100 establishments that serve food, all within close proximity, and is a busy university town popular with tourists.

Fatbergs form when fats combine with other waste such as wet wipes and sanitary items and then congeal to form a solid mass, gradually growing as more material is added - these eventually block sewers, potentially causing flooding and polluting the environment

If successful, it will be rolled out nationwide.

“Many blockages in our sewer network occur as a result of the incorrect disposal of fats and oils into the sewer system,” said Mike Will, general manager of waste water operations at Scottish Water.

“The consequences on the environment can be huge – it can cause flooding to properties and roads and pollute rivers, as well as impacting valuable assets such as bathing waters.”

He added: “We are effectively attempting to put St Andrews drains on a diet.

“Even the way businesses wash pots, plates and utensils with greasy residue on them can have a profound impact on our sewers.

“FOG congeals in our sewers and causes blockages. Additionally, if you combine FOG to other things which should not be in our network – such as wet wipes and sanitary items – the consequences can be catastrophic in terms of flooding and pollution.

“The best way to tackle blocked drains and sewers is prevention.”

Scottish Water workers are called out to an average of 95 blockages in sewer systems across the country every day, costing £6.5 million a year.

More than half are caused by FOG being disposed of incorrectly down drains and sinks.

The scheme has been praised by environmentalists.

Pete Leonard, operations director at anti-littering group Keep Scotland Beautiful, added: “We welcome the launch of this proactive new project to stop kitchen fats, oils and grease from entering our drains and wider marine environment.

“We must think carefully about what we put down drains – whether that is flushing wet wipes or cotton buds or putting fats, oils or grease down the sink.”

Iain Clunie, food and drink programme manager at Zero Waste Scotland, added: “We’re always keen to encourage businesses to waste as little as possible.

“It’s not just food waste that can be recycled. Cooking oils can also be turned into valuable products such as biofuels.

“There are a range of services on offer for collecting and recycling used cooking oils and I hope businesses will consider them as part of their plans for keeping fats, oils and grease out of our drains.”