Fatbergs: A Sewer Menace You Might Be Helping Create

Fatbergs: A Sewer Menace You Might Be Helping Create

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My mother’s phrases rang in my ears: “Don’t pour grease down the drain!”

But I used to be in faculty and had no concept what else to do with the bacon grease. It was solely like a tablespoon, I rationalized, so down the drain it went with some sizzling water.

Fast-forward a number of years and now I’m sitting right here questioning what number of fatbergs I’ve helped create in my cities’ sewers.

Wait, what’s a fatberg, you ask? In easy phrases, it’s an enormous hunk of oil, grease, and fats all caught collectively that floats round in your metropolis sewer.

How Fatbergs Are Formed

While it might not look like an enormous deal so that you can pour somewhat oil or grease down the drain once in a while, it turns into a serious subject when everybody else in your metropolis is doing the identical factor.

When that oil or grease goes down the drain, it begins to mix with all the opposite oil and grease floating round within the sewer. When all of it meets with so-called “flushable” wet wipes, a deadly bond is fashioned. Wet wipes, in line with researchers, are a little bit of a magnet for oil and grease. As increasingly oil and grease accumulate, these blobs can grow to be fairly giant. As scientists have studied these fatbergs, they’ve found one purpose they will develop so giant is the calcium in the concrete-lined sewers. The calcium mixed with the oil and grease turns into soaplike in texture and sticks to the perimeters of the sewer.

Sewers aren’t any match for fatbergs. Photo: Shutterstock

What begins as a small buildup could cause huge issues. In 2013, bathrooms started to overflow for some residents in London. The trigger? A 15-ton fatberg that had practically sealed off the sewer. In 2017, an excellent bigger fatberg was found in Belfast. This one was composed of a few hundred tons of fats, oil, and grease.

The removing of those fatbergs from metropolis sewers can price an astounding quantity. According to New York’s 2017 “State of the Sewers” report, New York City spent $18 million over 5 years eradicating fatbergs. (The drawback has solely increased with the pandemic as extra individuals improperly flushed wipes — in addition to disposable masks and latex gloves — down bathrooms.)

pan of cooking oil
Where will this used cooking oil find yourself? Photo: Shutterstock

Fighting Fatbergs

Fatbergs have been a much bigger subject in some European nations than within the United States on account of numerous laws. U.S. eating places are required to have grease traps and need to get rid of their used oil in a particular method. This drastically reduces the quantity of oil being despatched into our sewer system.

There are, nevertheless, just a few easy steps you may take to do your half in preventing off these fatbergs. First and foremost, don’t pour oil, grease, or fat down the drain. Instead, acquire your oil and grease till you could have a good quantity you’d prefer to recycle. Here’s what we suggest doing:

  • Designate and label a particular container for storing your used oil. Mason jars or espresso cans work nice. If you’re going to personally reuse the oil, you’ll need to hold it refrigerated.
  • Once your container is stuffed, use the Earth911 Recycling Search to discover a native recycling possibility in your space. If no possibility exists, name your native family hazardous waste facility to see in the event that they know of an area spot. You can even strive calling an space fireplace division to see in the event that they acquire it.
  • If that doesn’t work, seal the container and get rid of it together with your regular rubbish. While disposing of used oil together with your common rubbish is much from preferrred, in some areas that’s the one possibility. Just make certain your container is sealed tight so the oil received’t leak.

If you’d prefer to be taught extra about recycling used cooking oil, take a look at Earth911’s Used Cooking Oil Recycling Guide.

Originally printed on August 23, 2017, this text was up to date in March 2022.