The idea of the climate breaking down is a terrifying thought – and it can be difficult to see how small acts can add up to create such a huge problem. Poor grease management is, nevertheless, part of that problem. Let’s take a closer look…
It All Begins with An Inefficient Kitchen
Letting fats and oils go to waste, by cooking with more oil than we need and failing to re-use as much as we can, is not only bad for our bank balances.
Those wasted fats and oils have got to come from somewhere: whether we are talking about animal fats or plant-based oils, we are talking about the end product of a long agricultural and industrial process, both of which see massive amounts of energy expended and tonnes of carbon released into the atmosphere, contributing to the climate crisis which we are now experiencing.
Remembering that oil doesn’t just cost money, it costs carbon, and keeping waste to a minimum is one small, easy step which we can all take to help avoid the breakdown of the natural world: know how much oil you need to use, don’t use more and re-use what’s leftover.
Then: Don’t Block the Drain
Though it might be inevitable that some will slip and slide down the plughole, letting fats, oils and grease go down the drain is never a good idea: FOGs block pipes.
If your drains are blocked, you are much more likely to pour a whole load of drain-cleaning chemicals down your sink.
Just like the fats and oils themselves, those chemicals have got to come from somewhere. Just like the fats and oils, those cleaning compounds are the end product of a long industrial process which also expends a huge amount of energy and also releases tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere.
Keeping blockages to a minimum by being careful to avoid FOGs slipping down your sink is one more way to protect the planet.
In the Sewers
Another way to save the world is to install a grease trap or grease removal unit.
Without one, the fats and oils which do go down the drain flow straight through into the sewer (together with those cleaning chemicals).
In the sewer, fats, oils and grease congeal in the cold and solidify, slowing the flow of sewage before eventually snowballing into fatbergs which clog the sewer altogether.
We know that fatbergs make it more likely that our sewers will overflow, releasing raw sewage directly into our waterways.
But fatbergs also amplify the toxicity of the sewage: they trap and hold everything which tries to flow past in place, from human waste and food deposits to wet wipes, condoms and drugs.
In the sewer’s cool damp conditions, without much oxygen, harmful strains of bacteria thrive with plenty of time to anaerobically break down what is in the sewage, producing toxic by-products.
The environmental impact of this increase in toxicity comes into play when we try to…
Clear Out the Fatberg
Fatberg extraction usually means a small team working for weeks with high-powered jet hoses to break down the berg. Usually working at night, they need lighting for the street and for the sewer. Then they need vans burning fuel to cart off chunks of the berg to a sewage treatment plant. This is a lot of energy which would not need to be used if it wasn’t for the fatberg.
On top of this, fatbergs make sewage treatment far less efficient. The more toxic the sewage and the more solid the matter, the more processing that sewage needs: this means more energy and more industrial chemicals (like chlorine) need to be used to treat it.
What comes out the other side will not look so pretty, either. When dealing with a fatberg, a lower proportion of clean water and a higher proportion of the waste product or sewage sludge will be produced than if the treatment plants only had to deal with the 3Ps (pee, poo, paper).
What Can We Do?
While this does off-set the energy required to deal with the fatberg problem, however, not having a fatberg problem in the first place would be much better for the natural world.
Install a grease trap or grease removal unit – and come back soon to read about the impact of poor grease management on wildlife.