Million pound problem

Fatbergs are wreaking havoc in the Thames Water region. Formed when leftover cooking fat and wet wipes congeal into a solid mass in sewers, fatbergs are costing the firm £1 million a month to clear.

Fatbergs block pipes and can cause sewage to back up into people’s homes and gardens.

In a bid to alleviate the problem, Thames Water has launched a widespread campaign urging its customers to ‘Bin it – don’t block it’ when it comes to anything other than toilet paper and human waste. As part of the campaign, ‘fat traps’ will be freely available to encourage customers to throw used cooking fat in the bin rather than pouring it down the sink. Billboard and bus stop posters will be appearing across the boroughs. 

Thames Water’s head of customer field services, Jerry White, said: “Often people just don’t realise the consequences of putting things other than human waste and toilet paper down their toilets and drains – the term ‘flushable’ doesn’t mean biodegradable and therefore will cause a blockage.

“Having sewage flood your property or business as a result of a blockage is hugely distressing and, in many cases, avoidable. We hope this major information campaign will educate people and encourage them to ‘Bin it – don’t block it’, enabling sewers to do the job they were designed to do.”

Cleaning pots and pans with washing up liquid does not break down fat, oil and grease for good. When it hits the cold sewers, it clings to wet wipes and hardens into gruesome fatbergs which cause blockages in the pipes.