Bin that festive fat


North East cooks are being urged not to stuff up their drains with turkey fat this Christmas.

Northumbrian Water, the company responsible for the region’s 33,000 kilometre sewer network, was called out to clear more than 150 blockages last December caused by cooking fat.

The water company traditionally experiences an increase in the amount of blocked drains over the festive period as people tuck into a traditional turkey dinner – pouring roasting juices down the plughole afterwards.

And this year will be no exception as a fifth of North Easterners admitted in a recent Northumbrian Water survey to regularly disposing of cooking oil, meat juices and food leftovers down the sink instead of a bin.

Fat and grease in liquid form may not appear to be harmful, but as it cools it congeals and hardens. It sticks to the inside of pipes and restricts the wastewater flow, causing a blockage. Wastewater can then back up, flooding homes and land and polluting the environment.

Richard Warneford, wastewater director at Northumbrian Water, explains: “An average-sized turkey can produce enough fat to fill a bowl the size of a Christmas pudding so it’s easy to imagine how this can become a recipe for disaster when poured down the sink.
“A blocked drain is definitely not top of anyone’s Christmas list so we hope people will remember our advice so they can enjoy the festive celebrations.”

Instead of pouring cooking fat down the sink, householders are advised to put it into a container. Once cool, the fat can be wrapped in newspaper and binned, or taken to a local waste recycling centre.

Fat with high nutritional content, such as lamb or beef suet, can be mixed with seeds, nuts and oatmeal and made into treats for garden birds.

Northumbrian Water estimates that it will spend around £1.2 million by the end of the year on clearing 17,500 sewer blockages – a cost which is then passed on to the customer. The company’s Love your drain customer education campaign, featuring character Dwaine Pipe, was launched in August this year to tackle the issue.

Further advice can be found at and by following Dwaine Pipe on Twitter @loveyourdrain or on Facebook at  

For more information contact Leanne Clough on 0191 301 6733.

The Northumbrian Water survey was carried out at supermarkets, shopping centres and events around the North East between August and October 2012, with a sample of 1,017 customers.

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