Every day, more than 15 million people in London and the Thames Valley flush or drain 2.8 billion litres of used water. All that water has to go somewhere – our complex 43,500-mile network of sewers, to be precise!
In total, we clear around 75,000 blockages from our sewers each year. Most of these are caused by cooking fats and oils, which harden to form a thick layer of gunk inside pipes. When non-biodegradable items such as wet wipes, sanitary items and cotton pads are flushed down the loo, they combine with the gunk to form huge lumps called fatbergs. Over time, these block pipes, forcing raw sewage back up drains, plugholes and toilets.
Life flows better when you bin it – don’t block it, so we’ve put together some handy tips on how to prevent blocked pipes around your home.
Resist the temptation to tip old food down the kitchen sink and be sure to scrape it in the bin. If it’s more of a ‘liquid’ food like 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. Instead of pouring them down the sink, collect them in a container like a jam jar or yoghurt pot and leave them to cool down. Once they’ve 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 – check with them if you’d like to find out more.
If you’ve blocked your drain, crossed fingers and a squirt of washing-up liquid won’t clear it. That’s because hot water and soap don’t dissolve oils and fats, and the soap may actually harden in your pipes, sticking to other items and adding to the problem.
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. The three Ps is the best rule to remember when it comes to what’s flushable; pee, poo, paper. Nothing else!
There are loads of wet wipe alternatives on the market now, so why not try a few? You’ll be helping the planet in more ways than one.
Many companies market products as ‘flushable’. But these wipes contain plastic, so they won’t break down the same way as toilet paper does. Although they’ll probably disappear when you flush, they won’t completely leave your drains, so pop them in the bin to be safe.
On average, we unblock five house blockages and remove 30 tonnes of ‘unflushable’ material from just one of our sites each day, costing an average of £18 million a year.
Our ongoing mission is to raise awareness of this issue so that we can help you prevent problems at home and keep life flowing smoothly across our region.