Every day, more than 15 million people in London and the Thames Valley flush or drain 2.8 billion litres of used water for treatment. In total, we clear around 75,000 blockages from our sewers each year. The majority of these are caused by cooking fats and oils, which harden in the sewers forming a thick layer around the pipe. Add wet wipes, sanitary products and cotton pads to the recipe for the perfect fatberg! Over time, fatbergs block pipes forcing raw sewage back up drains, plugholes and toilets.
The three Ps is the best rule to remember when it comes to what’s flushable; pee, poo, paper. Nothing else!
Help us fight the fatberg by not throwing nasties into the toilet, down the kitchen sink, or into the street. Prevent blocked pipes by :
Wipes, condoms, sanitary products, cotton wool, and dental floss are some of the biggest offenders in our sewers. Throw them in the bin, not the loo.
Many companies market products as ‘flushable’ but the truth is, many wipes contain plastic so don’t break down the same way as toilet paper does. They may flush, but they may not completely leave your drains, so put them in the bin to be safe.
There are loads of wet wipe alternatives on the market now, why not try a few? You’ll be helping the planet in more ways than one. You eco-legend!
Resist the temptation to tip old food down the kitchen sink and be sure to chuck it in the bin. If it’s more of a ‘liquid’ food such as gravy, use some kitchen roll to soak it up and then chuck the paper in the bin.
Cooking fat and oils will eventually turn solid and build up in your pipes so instead of pouring fats and oils down the sink, collect them in a container like a jam jar and leave them to cool down. Once set, scoop them out and pop them straight in the bin. Your local council may also have a special way to dispose of fat, oil and grease. Please check with them for more information.
We recently witnessed the extent of the damage caused in our sewers with the discovery of a giant fatberg. Fatbergs form as a direct result of non-biodegradable items being flushed down the drains and we’re tackling this from many angles, raising awareness of the issue.
A large proportion of the pipes date back to Victorian times when they were first installed and so struggle with the growth of our modern population. We monitor the network of pipes so we can find the hot-spots for blockages. Wherever possible this means we can get in there early, flush the pipes and prevent sewage flooding into homes and businesses. The scale of the pipe network, however, does make this sometimes very difficult.
On average, we unblock 5 house blockages and remove 30 tonnes of ‘unflushable’ material, from just one of our sites each day. This costs us on average £18m per year.
We’re working with manufacturers to correctly label wet wipes, as we know from experience that the term ‘flushable’ isn’t accurate where sewers are concerned. Items labelled ‘flushable’ contribute to the clogging of pipes which can lead to the growth of fatbergs. We’re working to influence them to remove the plastics in the wipes, as this makes the materials slow to break down and also harms the environment.
We’re collaborating with other water companies as well as environmental organisations to raise awareness of the problems and behaviours that cause damage to the sewers, and ultimately the environment, birds and wildlife.
We work with local schools to ensure the younger generation know what shouldn’t go down the drain. Our fun and interactive sessions are linked to the national curriculum and educate children about water and waste. In fact, we’ve recently celebrated teaching 100,000 school children in our education centres and with our community speakers visiting schools.
Prevention is better than a cure and we continue to campaign to both individuals and businesses to think about how their behaviour affects the drains. Ultimately if we can stop the wrong things from getting into the system in the first place, then we can focus our attention and energy on other areas.
You can help by only flushing the 3Ps, pee, poo and paper – as well as disposing of fat and oils in the bin, to keep our sewers flowing free. Try using alternatives to wet wipes which don’t have as bigger an impact on the sewers.