Caring about waste
What goes down the sink and the wastepipes matters. Flush and pour the wrong things and we bring sewer flooding and river pollution which costs millions of pounds each year to put right.
Are you sewer aware?
Protecting our waste pipes from getting blocked or polluting our rivers means understanding the problems and acting to stop them
Everyone knows that a working sewerage system is essential for a healthy society and a clean environment. But some people still use toilets, sinks and external drains as waste bins for food, fats, oil and solid items. This leads to sewer blockages, local flooding and pollution. Clean-up costs are high - and in the end, it is customers who pay via their water bills.
What's the problem?
Fats, oils and grease
Fats, oils, grease (FOG) and food waste cause major problems for our drains and sewers. When disposed of down kitchen sinks, toilets or drains, this type of waste congeals to form blockages which can lead to flooding and pollution. If such products enter the drainage systems that carry rainwater, they go straight into our streams and rivers.
- Sewer blockages cause 80% of sewer flooding incidents in the UK
- More than 3,000 properties are flooded each year as a result these blockages
- There are around 366,000 sewer blockages a year in the UK with more than three-quarters caused by fats, oils and grease, wipes, sanitary waste and other unflushable items
- Around £88 million is spent each year on clearing blocked sewers. Flood clean-ups add to this and have to be covered through customer bills
- On average a customer pays £66 to call in a company to clear a drain - but it can be much higher
- Sewage pumping stations suffer serious problems from FOG build-up
- Action to protect our sewers protects our homes, environment and keeps costs down
Click here for more information on fats, oils and grease.
So-called 'Flushable' products
No matter what it says on the packaging, most personal healthcare and beauty products must not be disposed of down the toilet. They don't break down like toilet paper does. Instead they collect in our sewers to form blockages and this can lead to sewer backup and flooding - most unpleasant.
Click here to find out more about what not to flush.
Waste machines - macerators
Macerators are supposed to provide an easy and convenient way to dispose of food, sanitary and clinical waste products into drains and sewers by grinding or shredding the waste before it goes. Sewers were not designed to manage this. Instead, this material increases the risk of blockages and other malfunctions of the wastewater pipes and plant.
For more information on macerators, please click here.
Wrongly connected pipes
Around 300,000 UK homes are sending wastewater from washing machines, sinks, baths and even the toilet direct to their local river or stream instead of to the sewage treatment works. This happens when the waste pipes have been put in wrongly - called 'misconnection' - but it is straightforward to fix. (Homes built in the 1960s and 1970s are most at risk of misconnection.)
For more information on pipe misconnections, see our Connect Right information page.