Drains in St Andrews ‘on a diet’ to tackle fatberg clogging problem

Scottish Water is launching a project to combat fatbergs (Scottish Water/PA)

Every food business in a Scottish town is being targeted in a scheme aimed at tackling the problem of so-called fatbergs clogging up drains.

More than 100 takeaways, cafes, restaurants and hotels in St Andrews, Fife, are to be visited by experts offering advice on food waste management under a new initiative led by Scottish Water.

The utility said its plan to put the town’s drains “on a diet” is the first of its kind in Scotland and, if the pilot project is successful, it will be rolled out to other areas north of the border.

Fatbergs – large lumps of fatty deposits that block the sewer system – can cause major flooding and pollution while disposing of them costs significant sums of money every year.

They are typically caused by accumulations of fat, oil and grease (known as FOG) which have been disposed of incorrectly down drains and sinks.

Scottish Water’s Fat Free Sewer project will see every food service establishment in St Andrews visited by food waste management experts.

Officers from Environmental Compliance & Services (ECAS) will go to the premises in the town centre on behalf of the utility.

Businesses will be advised on the best ways to dispose of FOG and told if the grease management system they have – if they have one at all – is sufficient for their needs.

Where they find an inefficient system in a kitchen, they will offer advice on what improvements should be made and make a return visit to see if the necessary action has been taken.

Estimates suggest that about eight in 10 establishments Scotland-wide have an inadequate grease management system or no system in place at all, Scottish Water said.

Mike Will, waste water operations general manager at Scottish Water, said: “Many blockages in our sewer network occur as a result of the incorrect disposal of fats and oils into the sewer system.

“The consequences on the environment can be huge – it can cause flooding to properties and roads, and pollute rivers, as well as impacting valuable assets such as bathing waters.

“Currently, Scottish Water visits food service establishments on a reactive basis, once blockages have occurred. In some cases these are one-off events, but sometimes we do get called to the same locations.

“This pilot project, for the first time, will see us proactively visiting food-serving premises, giving them advice and guidance on what they can do to protect and preserve our valuable sewer network. We are effectively attempting to put St Andrews’ drains on a diet.”

The utility said it attends an average 95 blockages in the sewer system every day across Scotland, at a cost of £6.5 million a year, with more than half of those blockages caused by FOG.

St Andrews was picked for the six-month project as it has many establishments which serve food, all within close proximity, and is a busy university town popular with tourists.

Iain Clunie, food and drink programme manager at Zero Waste Scotland, said: “We’re always keen to encourage businesses to waste as little as possible.

“It’s not just food waste that can be recycled – cooking oils can also be turned into valuable products such as biofuels.

“There are a range of services on offer for collecting and recycling used cooking oils, and I hope businesses will consider them as part of their plans for keeping fats, oils and grease out of our drains.”