In August 2013, a 15-tonne fatberg, the size of a bus, was found in a London drain.
In September 2014, a fatberg the size of a Boeing 747 aeroplane was discovered in another London drain.
In September 2017, a 130-tonne fatberg, 250 metres long, was blocking up yet another section of London’s sewage system.
In February 2019, a 400-tonne, 250-metre-long fatberg was lodged in a Liverpool drain.
Earlier this year, in February, a monstrous fatberg, reportedly the weight of a bungalow, was discovered in a London sewer. Two months later, a 300-tonne fatberg was found to be blocking a Birmingham sewer.
It sounds like something out of a horror movie. Something unexplainable. It sounds dangerous and threatening.
A fatberg doesn’t belong in a horror movie. And it can easily be explained. It is, however, a danger to human health and a threat to city hygiene.
Made up of flushed wet wipes, nappies, sanitary products, cotton buds, rags, food, condoms, bandages, rubber gloves, face masks, and all kinds of human debris … and bound together by huge amounts of congealed fat, oil, and grease (FOG), a fatberg is the result of inappropriate disposal practices.
Research shows that an estimated 48% of the UK population have, at some time, flushed wet wipes down the toilet, and a further 48% regularly pour fats, oils, and grease down their drains. Approximately 180 million cotton buds are flushed away every year.
As fluid waste passes through the sewers, any obstruction will cause turbulence in the flow, and as the contents swirl, debris gets trapped and consolidated.
What kind of obstruction are we talking about?
Well, it could be the rough inner surface of the pipes. Or it might be damaged brickwork or concrete. A common starting point for a fatberg blockage is an intrusive tree root.
Fatbergs cause blocked drains in homes and streets, overflowing sewers, and damage to roads and buildings. Worryingly, they can also cause water pollution.
Unblocktober was launched in October 2019 by Lanes Group PLC, the largest independent drainage specialists in the UK.
The purpose of Unblocktober is to raise awareness of the problems caused by improper waste disposal – from the health hazards of sewage overflow and flooding, to the serious plastic pollution of the Earth’s oceans.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, there’s been a significant increase in the amount of “un- flushable” waste being flushed down the toilet.
Unblocktober 2021 focuses on the idea of New World, New Habits. This year is about encouraging people to make changes to the way we dispose of waste. It’s about developing new habits and coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic with a new outlook on sustainability.
Never pour fat or oil down the drain – especially animal fat, like butter, lard, or meat fat. Pour the used grease into an eggbox, and when it’s cool, put the eggbox in the bin.
Alternatively, pour the fat into a glass dish, and when it’s cool, wipe it out of the dish, into the bin.
If you’re interested in joining thousands of others in this year’s mission to change the way we dispose of waste, sign up to Unblocktober 2021.