Food outlets get on board in battle against fatbergs

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Food outlets get on board in battle against fatbergs

A campaign to reduce sewer-blocking fatbergs has seen more than 800 food outlets receive face-to-face waste disposal advice from Thames Water experts.

Experienced sewer engineers have been visiting restaurants and takeaways since February, targeting outlets across London and the Thames Valley in areas identified as sewer blockage hotspots.

As part of the visits, the Thames Water engineers helped owners and kitchen workers understand the consequences of putting food waste, fat, oil and grease down the sink and drain.

Four months on, many food outlets admit to having improved their practices following the advice and are already reaping the benefits.

Thames Water’s sewer network performance manager, Stephen Pattenden, said: “We’ve been welcomed with open arms by many food outlets as they often don’t realise how big a problem putting fat, oil, grease and food scraps down the sink or drain can be.

“We’ve spoken to lots of restaurant and takeaway managers who regularly spend hundreds of pounds clearing blockages from their own property, and were delighted when our experts told them how to prevent it.

“It’s a great outcome for everyone as the food outlets save money and our sewers don’t get filled and blocked with fat.”

Thames Water launched its campaign following a successful pilot in Oxford which revealed 95 per cent of food establishments visited were contributing to sewer blockages by having inadequate or no kitchen grease management. Only five per cent had the correct-sized grease traps installed and properly maintained.

Tom Chapman, a property surveyor for pub and restaurant chain Greene King, said: “The advice Thames Water gave us during recent visits to some of our pubs has been really helpful.

“It’s enabled us to improve how we dispose of fat and grease from our kitchens, which will hopefully prevent blockages in the public sewer and our internal pipes.

“They reinforced the importance of making sure the right equipment is in place and staff know how to maintain it, which is most definitely something we’ve taken on board.”

A number of independent fast food outlets in hotspots like Reading, Hounslow and Dartford, have also installed grease trapping equipment and adapted their processes to help in the ongoing fight against fatbergs.

Mr Pattenden added: “It’s still early days in the campaign but we’re hopeful we’ll soon see a decrease in blockages in some of our fatberg hotspots as a result of the visits.

“We leave each food outlet with posters they can put up near their sinks and drains, and have even produced them in several different languages, so they can still remember our advice long after we’ve gone.

“We’ve learnt that no food outlet wants to be contributing to sewer blockages, especially when it impacts on their business and their pockets, so once we point out where they can improve, most are happy to make the necessary changes.”

Visits to food outlets across Thames Water’s region are set to continue throughout the summer including revisits to establishments who have not made improvements and continue to be in breach of the Water Industry Act, which states it is an offence to discharge anything into a sewer which may interfere with it flowing freely.