We’re on a festive mission

Most of the socialising around Christmas time revolves around celebratory meals. And rightly so! Work ‘dos’, family lunches, and pre-Christmas catch-ups with friends are all happening right now.

It’s all great fun isn’t it? But, it’s not so great if festive food waste – plus fats, oils, and grease (FOG) – ends up going down sinks and drains.

Why? Because all that Christmas grease and food debris causes blockages in the wastewater network. Those blockages can then lead to sewage backing up into people’s homes, gardens, and businesses – which is an awful thing to happen, causing misery and distress, not to mention the cost of it all.

And what’s more, sewer floods can pollute local streams, rivers and beaches – causing harm to wildlife. If that isn’t enough, the build-up of food waste in drains can also generate horrible smells and encourage rodent and insect infestations, which can become a public health issue.

That’s why we’re on a festive mission. While food business owners, chefs, and kitchen staff are busier than ever – our mission is to make sure the festive FOG goes in the bin, and not in the sewers.

We’re spreading the festive FOG message

As the festive season gets into full swing – we’re making sure the sewer networks don’t get the January blues as a result!

At the moment, our environmental inspectors are up and down the UK visiting food service establishments like: restaurants, hotels, pubs, cafes, and fast food outlets.

Our teams are busy doing kitchen audits, training kitchen staff on best management practice, and recommending actions for food businesses to take, so they reduce how much FOG they discharge into the sewer network.

That’s all normal for us, but as it’s Christmas, our environmental inspectors stopped to share their top ten tips for a FOG-free Christmas.

Top ten tips

Whether you’re a chef in a restaurant, or you’re at home cooking your turkey for the family – here’s what they had to say:

  1. “Simple things like rinsing greasy, gravy-stained plates under a running tap, means that the fat goes down the plughole and congeals in the pipes. So instead, before washing them up or putting them into the dishwasher – dry-wipe plates, utensils, cutlery, and pots and pans with a paper towel and then pop them in the bin.”
  2. “Get a sink strainer to catch any food debris like salad bits before it goes down the sink. That way, the food waste can be chucked into the bin and not the wastewater network we all depend upon to live our lives.”
  3. “After the Christmas dinners are done, don’t sweep rubbish into a floor drain. Use a dustpan and brush and empty it into the bin.”
  4. “If you’re a commercial kitchen, make sure you’ve got the right-sized grease trapping equipment in place to catch the fat before it goes down the pipes. We offer advice to food businesses about this, as part of our visits to them.”
  5. “Train all your kitchen staff on best management practice to stop fats, oils and grease from entering the public sewer. Or, if you’re a home cook, make sure your family and friends are doing the right thing too!”
  6. “Store all used cooking oil properly, and make sure it’s collected by a licensed waste haulier. Oh, and don’t forget to keep all paperwork associated with this for auditing purposes.”
  7. “Take all food macerators out of service. Instead, scrape all food waste directly into bins to stop waste food from entering the public sewer.”
  8. “If you’ve already got grease trapping equipment in place, make sure you maintain it. Check it’s regularly cleaned and looked after.”
  9. “If you’re at home, pour your used cooking oil from your roasties, or your turkey, into a container. Then, let it cool and harden before putting it into the bin.”
  10. “Don’t forget, it’s not just turkey fact that causes problems for sewers. It’s sauces, creams, gravies, and soups too.”

Happy Christmas from everybody at ECAS!

The best diet ever

Forget Atkins, 5:2, or Slimming World diets – the Fat-Free Sewer campaign was one of the most effective diets we’ve ever been on!

Between Autumn 2018 and Summer 2019, we spent time with around 170 food businesses in St Andrews, Cupar and Dundee – on behalf of Scottish Water. It was called the Fat-Free sewer campaign.

Why? To educate them on why it’s important to dispose of fats, oils and grease (commonly called FOG) responsibly. And more importantly, to encourage food business owners, to act on our advice, by installing proper grease trapping equipment – if they needed to do so.

We wanted to help Scottish Water put the Fife sewers on a diet, by preventing FOG from entering their wastewater network in the first place.

If FOG is allowed to go down sinks and drains – instead of being trapped at source – it can build up in the pipes and become fatbergs – that block the sewers, and potentially lead to sewer floods, and harm to the environment.

Nobody wants that.

Nearly 300 kitchen staff educated

Our mission from Scottish Water – was one of education.

We spent time educating up to 300 kitchen staff, who work in restaurants, cafés, hotels, fast food outlets, academic institutions, supermarkets, nursing homes – basically, any commercial premises where food was being prepared and served.

We talked to food service establishments to find out how they went about getting rid of their FOG. We performed site inspections and audits. We showed them what best kitchen practice looked like when it came to disposing of FOG. We recommended what grease trapping equipment they should install – if any. And beyond that, we provided ongoing guidance and support on how to remain FOG compliant.

160 tonnes lighter

As a result of our time in Fife, the sewers should be around 140 tonnes lighter of FOG each year. That’s the equivalent of 85 cars, or 50,000 house bricks. On top of that, Scottish Water did a cleanse of the sewers that banished another 20 tonnes of FOG – equating to a 160-tonne weight loss in total.

Surely that deserves Slimmer of the Year?

So, what were the secrets of our dieting success?

In our view, to crack the systemic problem of sewer misuse, fatbergs can be prevented if you:

  • Invest in proactive education, like Scottish Water did.
    • In our experience, food businesses aren’t deliberately trying to sabotage the sewer network. Most of them are unaware of the consequences of their actions, until you sit down and explain to them. Then offer them ongoing help and expertise to keep compliant.
  • Raise the profile of the problem through impactful communications.
    • The success of the campaign was underpinned by the continuous and consistent communications by Scottish Water in the press, and via social media – helping to galvanize the local community to get involved, and support one another. This led to local businesses stepping forward to be the face of the campaign, in newspaper articles and social media stories.
  • Do both prevention and cure – to remain fat free.
    • While we were out pounding the pavements visiting food businesses in a bid to prevent FOG from entering the sewers – our colleagues in Scottish Water, were out cleaning the sewers of the FOG that was already lurking down below. This prevention and cure approach will make for a much healthier, and simmer, sewer network.

So, that’s why it’s been an effective diet all round.

Here’s to more fat free sewers across Scotland and beyond!