Ok, so when we flush something down the toilet – it is lost to us. Out of sight, out of mind etc. We will never think of it again. Unless it is a lost valuable of course - rings seem to be the main culprit for slipping off into a flushing toilet and these are the rare items that we desperately want to see again.
This desire to forget makes perfect sense, given what the toilet is designed for. Waste. Bodily waste. But as the existence of the fatberg will testify -sometimes we confuse the toilet with the dustbin.
Wet wipes and sanitary towels are the biggest culprits. Sometimes even nappies, for those with an impressive U-bend. Oh, and don’t forget the actual toilet waste that is getting caught up in this mix.
To properly solidify this beast, add some more thoughtlessly discarded substance from another room in the house - cooking oils/fats that we put down the plughole in the kitchen. Flushed chemicals that join this waste, cause the fat to harden – creating an immovable object.
We are asking a lot of our sewage system.
- Every year there are around 300,000 sewer blockages in the UK. It is estimated that this costs the country £100 million. £1 million per month in London alone.
- Wet wipes are to blame for 93% of blockages in the UK.
- The largest recorded fatberg in the UK was discovered in February 2019 in Birchall Street, Liverpool. It weighed 400 tonnes and was 250 metres long. Because it proved difficult to break down using traditional methods, it was still being removed in July 2019.
- The growth of ‘eating out’ has exacerbated the problem, as restaurant waste contributes an enormous amount of grease to our sewage system. In a bid to control this, those restaurants found to be pouring excessive amounts down the drain can be prosecuted.
- Anything that we ingest: drugs from paracetamol to cocaine, or clean with: household soaps and bleach – ends up here in the sewer and part of the fatberg’s DNA.
- Bacteria including E-Coli, Listeria and antibiotic-resistant ‘superbugs’ are also found among the fats. Should a sewage pipe block completely – these bugs could find their way into your home as waste seeps back in.
Ways to Combat the Fatberg:
1. Do not put wet wipes down the toilet. If you simply cannot live without doing this – then look for a brand with the ‘Fine to Flush’ logo. Water UK will only award this logo to those wipes that pass stringent testing.
2. Don’t pour cooking oils or fats down the plughole. Wipe any pans with kitchen roll to remove excess oil before washing up.
3. To safely dispose of these oils/fats: wait until they have cooled down and pour into a sealable container.
- If it is the type of oil that solidifies, then put in the fridge/freezer and put in the bin when solid.
- If the oil does not solidify, then put in a container and take to your local recycling centre.
4. Put all sanitary products, condoms etc in the bathroom bin.