Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without turkey and all the trimmings, but once the festive dinner is over, piling on the pounds shouldn’t be your only concern at this time of year. How you dispose of food waste, and keeping the dreaded festive fatberg at bay, should also be a consideration during the festivities.

Festive fatberg uncovered

As delicious as a Christmas dinner is, the oils and fats that cook the meat, potatoes, veg and gravy to perfection are fatbergs waiting to happen! Eager to get the washing up done and dusted, most of us probably don’t think twice about pouring leftover greasy waste down the sink.

Yet, remnants of oil, fat and grease from plates, pans and trays that get washed down the sink eventually solidify and turn into large lumps. As fatbergs settle in your drains and sewerage systems, they combine with other non-biodegradable substances, such as hair, increasing in size and eventually preventing water and waste from passing through.

Blockages can cause water to back up in the pipes, resulting in raw sewage and waste flooding your home and garden. While most of us relish surprises at Christmas time, this is one surprise that we could happily do without.


A growing problem

Fatbergs get their name not just because they consist of fat, but because they can get pretty fat themselves, too. In some cases, they can grow up to 250 metres long. A monster of a fatberg, known as the Whitechapel Fatberg, recently made headlines in London. Weighing a whopping 130 tonnes, it took workers nine weeks to blitz the giant fat ball from the capital’s sewers. Part of the greasy mass can be seen at the Museum of London, in the hope that it will educate people to dispose of waste more carefully.

Getting rid of fatbergs is an unpleasant and smelly experience for those working in the water industry (dubbed sewer crusaders), with high-powered water jet sprays and suction vacuums needed to bust the bergs into oblivion. Water companies spend around £100 million every year clearing blockages, with costs passed onto customers through increased sewerage charges.

With fatberg growth peaking in December – it’s estimated that 10% of sewer blockages are caused by festive oils, fats and greases – the message is loud and clear: dispose of Christmas dinner waste carefully.


Preventing fatbergs

Most fatbergs can be prevented, so you can still enjoy a traditional Christmas dinner without giving fatbergs something to feast on.

Always scrape plates and pans by hand before washing them or putting them in the dishwasher, so greasy waste doesn’t end up going down the plughole. Many people assume that pouring boiling water down the drain will disperse any grease globules – alas, it just isn’t true.

Pour turkey dripping into a container, where it will cool and solidify, and then securely dispose of it in the bin. Alternatively, mix the solid leftover fat with seed to create fat balls to feed hungry birds in the garden.

Be mindful of what other substances you pour down the sink or flush down the toilet, as these can combine with fatbergs, encouraging their growth. Only human waste and toilet paper should make it down the drains. Astonishingly, some giant fatbergs have been found to contain substances such as nappies, tights, slippers, wet wipes, cotton wool and coins!

Consider installing a grease trap or hair trap, as these prevent grease and hair from entering the drainage system and allowing fatbergs to form or grow.

Exjet provides a wide range of specialist sewer maintenance services.

Merry Christmas everyone!