It isn’t a pretty picture, but we need to talk about fatbergs. If you’re blissfully unaware, a fatberg is a hardened mass of waste material that should not have found their way into the sewer.

Unless discovered and dealt with, fatbergs can grow and grow, until they eventually cause major disruption to the operation of the sewer works. Every year the UK spends about £100m clearing an estimated 300,000 fatbergs.

Does your business use any of these fatberg causing materials, and if so, are you disposing of them correctly?

FOG

Every year, tens of thousands of litres of waste fat, oil and grease (FOG) are poured down sinks by homes and businesses that don’t realise the horrendous problems this could cause. When fat, cooking oil and grease cools it forms a solid mass which can easily block pipes and cause flooding.

Over time, larger build-ups of FOG amass in sewers and mix with other material, such as wet-wipes, and the result is a fatberg.

Campaigns, such as South West Water’s #ThinkSink, have been created to help the public and businesses understand the importance of disposing of FOG in the right way. Food scraps and cooled fats should be collected and disposed of into bins or preferably food waste recycling containers. A sink strainer can help prevent food scraps going down the sink and many sewage companies provides fat traps free of charge.

Wipes

In the same week that a 64-metre long fatberg was discovered beneath the streets of Sidmouth, the introduction of a new water industry standard “Fine to Flush” symbol for wet wipe products was announced. This comes after a study from Water UK found that wipes made up about 93% of material causing sewer blockages that lead to fatbergs. Manufacturers of wipes can feature the “Fine to Flush” symbol on packaging if the product passes strict independent testing to prove they can be safely flushed down the toilet, and not contribute to sewer fatbergs.

Many businesses buy wipes for cleaning purposes and you can now look for the “Fine to Flush” symbol for confidence that your wet wipe product of choice does not contain plastic and will break down in the sewer system.

Blocked drains and sewer systems are bad news for businesses. The resulting disruption, damage to local trade and loss of profits can be significant, but your business can fight back against fatbergs. If your business limits the oils it washes down the sink and stops sending unflushables into the sewers, you can help prevent fatbergs impacting your business.