Nearly half UK adults pour oil and fats down the sink, reveals survey

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25th September 2019 12:01 - Utilities

Nearly half UK adults pour oil and fats down sink: A survey has revealed that almost half UK adults (48%) admit to disposing of oils and fats down their kitchen sink - despite many knowing that this is a contributing factor to the formation of fatbergs.

The 2019 survey of 1,216 UK adults sought to find out more about public awareness levels around sewerage and drainage, as well as information about their household habits. It was commissioned by drainage specialist, Lanes Group UK, the company behind the removal of the now infamous 130-tonne fatberg from Whitechapel in 2017. 

While 48% confessed that they had poured oil and fat down their kitchen sink, three-quarters (77%) said that they were aware of fatbergs and how they form. This was higher than in 2018 when 61% said they were in the know, and considerably more than it was in 2017 when awareness levels stood at 47%. However, despite the increase in awareness, the survey reveals that behaviours have not changed accordingly. The number of people putting fats down the sink is marginally higher in the latest survey (48%) than it was twelve months ago, or in 2017 (47%). 

Almost two-fifths (39%) said they had heard about fatbergs through the wider media, with 13% reporting they had seen a TV show about them. 

To flush or not to flush?

The research also revealed that people are still flushing items which can create problems down the toilet, such as wet wipes and kitchen roll. More than half (55%) admitted to flushing wet wipes, while more than a third said they had flushed away a tampon (34%). A fifth of men said they had disposed of a condom down the toilet. 

Six in ten people (62%) said that they knew that wet wipes contain hidden plastics, which is one of the reasons they should not be flushed - even if they are marketed as 'flushable' on the packaging. 

The survey also revealed that the majority  of respondents (85%) had not heard about 'concrete-bergs' (a blockage created through the improper disposal of building materials and concrete). More than six in ten admitted they did not know the correct way to dispose of cement.  

Increasing awareness 

Asking respondents about how awareness can best be raised, two-thirds said that teaching children about it in schools could be beneficial, while more than half (52%) said that more TV programmes such as Sir David Attenborough's Blue Planet II could help influence the public. Other suggestions included better access to recycling services, fines for not disposing of items/substances correctly, as well as better information on packaging. 

The research showed that of the two-fifths of respondents who had seen Blue Planet II, more than half now use fewer plastic bags (57%), and 52% said they now recycle more often. 

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