There’s been a global outbreak of monster fatbergs recently. If you’re lucky enough not to know what a fatberg is, I’m afraid I’m about to shatter your innocence. A fatberg is a sewer blockage formed of cooking oil, tampons, pads, wet wipes, condoms and other items that should never be flushed or poured down the drain. Fatbergs are rock hard, cost millions to shift and can cause sewage to back up in homes or to overflow into rivers. Nice.
Liverpool, Baltimore, New Zealand, even hygienic Singapore – all have been tackling this menace in the past year, with London’s 130 tonne record-breaking fatberg hitting the headlines. Surely this epidemic could be prevented?
A striking new approach is being taken in the UK.
Education campaigns for the general public can help here, but for some aspects the problem goes a little deeper. When it comes to disposing of sanitary items behind the bathroom door, habits prove harder to shift.
that’s for three reasons
- There is still a taboo around discussing periods, especially around disposal. That means many women are completely unaware they should not flush tampons. 60% of women flush in the UK, that’s 1.4 billion tampons down the pan every year.
- In private behind a locked door, it’s easier to get away with anti-social behaviour. Even with the best intentions, bathroom bins are not always to hand when you’re away from home.
- Flushing is easy and convenient, whereas binning a used tampon or wipe can be messy and awkward.
The unexpected solution
Five of the UK water companies have alighted upon an innovative solution. Instead of lecturing people about not flushing problem items, they are giving them a helpful nudge in the right direction by providing a solution. They are offering FabLittleBags free of charge to households on request and at community events.
FabLittleBag is a specially designed biodegradable sanitary disposal bag that changes the whole experience of binning – from awkward to awesome; converting die-hard flushers to binners.
The modest outlay for water companies is dwarfed by the £1m+ bill for fatberg removal. There is also a strong environmental imperative: sewer blockages and heavy rains cause raw sewage to overflow into rivers and onto beaches, with devastating ocean pollution. This affects wildlife, not to mention humans unwilling to share their beach with a used tampon.
Now FabLittleBag would like to hear from other water companies and governments around the world who face the same issues and would like a simple, feel good, low cost solution. The prevention of fatbergs and environmental pollution seem like massive challenges: who’d have thought they could be tackled with one rather fab little bag?
Thank you to Severn Trent Water, Anglian Water, Welsh Water, Northern Ireland Water and Southern Water for their ongoing cooperation in fighting the fatberg menace.