Drains in St Andrews ‘put on a diet’ to combat fatberg problem

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

A water firm has announced plans to step up its fight against so-called fatbergs by putting drains in a Fife town “on a diet” as part of a pilot project.

The fatbergs – large lumps of fatty deposits that clog up 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 has now launched a new pilot project in Fife, which, if successful, will be rolled out to other parts of the country.

The Fat Free Sewer project – the first of its kind in Scotland – will see every food service establishment in St Andrews, including takeaways, cafes, restaurants and hotels, visited by food waste management experts.

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.

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

Officers from Environmental Compliance & Services (ECAS) will visit the food businesses on behalf of Scottish Water in the centre of the Fife town.

Where they find an inefficient grease management 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.

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 more than 100 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.”