Household recycling is causing “fatbergs”

Paul Killoughery MD of Bio Collectors’ in Mitcham Surrey, with MP's from the EFRA Select Committee

Paul Killoughery MD of Bio Collectors’ in Mitcham Surrey, with MP’s from the EFRA Select Committee

Nappies, fatbergs, rubbish due to recycling waste costing a fortune to clear

People who cause blocked sewers through flushing away inappropriate items and substances should pay fines to compensate for the clean-up costs.

That’s the opinion of the UKs waste management agency which says that man-made blockages cost water companies millions of pounds every year, cause floods and are a potential health risk.

According to the agency, incidents that can be traced back to particular individuals or businesses should be pursued by the law in the same way that polluters are prosecuted. From nappies to huge ‘fatbergs’ of cooking waste, there is a human element behind every blockage that needs to be made aware of the impact of their actions.

“It’s not just the parent who routinely flushes soiled nappies and wipes down the toilet,” says spokesperson Mark Hall, “It’s the company that flushes away chemicals and sediment which is just as likely to waste other people’s time and money.”

“And now the household who is washing away the dirt and scrapes from food containers which are to be recycled down the drain instead of in the bin, needs to be immediately re-educated” found that Thames Water spends £12 million every year clearing drains of blockages, across 55,000 separate incidents; while Severn Trent say they attended 1,700 sewer blockages in the first for months of this year in the city of Nottingham alone, at the cost of £1.1 million.

“It’s a national epidemic, and people just aren’t getting the message,” says Hall. “Unfortunately, a lot of people think of their drains as some sort of magic waste disposal unit where their rubbish is flushed away and becomes somebody else’s problem.”

Individuals, employees and company directors all need to take responsibility to ensure that drains and sewers are kept clear. says that public drains should be used for water, toilet tissue and human waste only. Particularly problematic for drains and sewers are:


  • Cooking waste – fat clumps together and causes ‘fatbergs’ which eventually completely block sewers. One under London this year was 80 metres long and took workers four days to break down
  • Nappies – notorious for blocking drains and sewers
  • Wet wipes – made of plastic fibres and do not break up in the way toilet paper does. Even those marked “flushable” on the packet cause blockages
  • Industrial waste – prone to block drains and put sewer workers at risk
  • Recycling waste from washing out food containers – putting this down the sink instead of the general waste bin causes fatbergs


Calling for fines for the worst offenders, ‘s Mark Hall says that deterrent law should be backed up with better education and help for householders.

“Some water companies give away free fat traps to customers so that fatbergs don’t start in their drains. These simple ideas should be available to everyone. Companies can buy industrial-sized drain traps, so they have no excuses either.” says that time is running out to ensure that the UK’s drains are clear for expected winter rains.

“If this coming winter is going to be anything like the last, we’re going to need our drainage systems working at capacity, not blocked with nappy-filled fatbergs.”

“It’s not just the water company’s job. It’s your job too.”


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