250 tonnes of fatbergs avoided – with help from Midland food businesses

Around 250 tonnes of fats, oils and grease – commonly known as FOG – has been stopped from entering our sewer system and becoming fatbergs.  That’s the equivalent in weight of more than 30 double decker buses!  And what’s more, that figure is set to double in 2019.

On our behalf, network protection officers from Environmental Compliance and Services (ECAS), have visited over 3,000 Midlands food businesses in the past year, working with them to make sure they have appropriate grease trapping equipment and procedures in place, to dispose of fats, oils and grease in the right way.

If homes and businesses allow fat to go down sinks and drains, it will harden when it hits the cold sewer pipes in the street, and it’ll become fatbergs. These fatbergs can choke the sewer network, causing devastating sewer flooding for homes and businesses, and can also lead to pollution in rivers and streams.  

Grant Mitchell, FOG strategy lead, said: “Rather than waiting for more and more fatbergs to grow and cause havoc for our customers, we’ve taken a proactive approach by making sure businesses that serve food ­– like cafes, take-aways, restaurants, hotels and pubs – have the right grease trapping equipment in place, to stop it entering our network in the first place.”

ECAS is the company that we commissioned to help us educate local communities about the harmful effects of putting the wrong things down sinks, drains and toilets. Their work will continue over the next five years.

Philip Soden, managing director of ECAS, said: “We’ve been visiting commercial kitchens and assessing how fat is being disposed of. If it’s not being done properly, we offer the staff help and advice on what grease trapping equipment they need to upgrade to, or install.

“Take a typical pub for example. On average they might generate around 1,500 litres of fats, oils and grease each year, and we don’t want that ending up in the public sewer.

“Some of the food businesses we work with don’t have anything in place at all – so without our intervention, their fat would inevitably continue to pour into Severn Trent’s network and cause all sorts of trouble for customers.”

One of the restaurants that’s been helping us in the fight against fatbergs is The Markham Moor Inn, in Retford, Nottinghamshire.

Mike Lunnon, manager of The Markham Moor Inn, said: “We had a grease trap in place, but after chatting to the network protection officer who visited us, we discovered it wasn’t big enough, which was a surprise to us.

“If I’m honest, like many food business owners, we’re very busy and grease traps aren’t always at the forefront of our mind. So, it was good to get a bit of help and guidance. It’s a nice feeling to know we won’t be causing any blockages in our town, and that we’re contributing positively to the environment.”

We clear around 45,000 blockages every year, removing wipes, sanitary products, fats and oils to prevent blockages. The size of an average drain pipe is only 15cm, so even putting a small amount of fat, oil or grease down a plughole can quickly block the pipes. 

Grant added: “We take sewer flooding and pollutions really seriously. We’re proactively reaching out to our communities to help us in the fight against fatbergs ­– and will continue to do so. The response so far has been wonderful, and it’s great to know there are so many responsible food business owners out there who genuinely care for the environment and communities in which they live and work.  And it’s exactly the same message for people at home – put your left over fat and grease into the bin, NOT down the sink.”