What are Fatbergs and Why does it Matter?

Crews in the UK prepare to descend into the sewer to remove a fatberg

You just finished frying up a crunchfest and you have to deal with leftover oil. Pouring used cooking oil (UCO) down the drain may seem like the easiest and fastest solution. What’s the big deal? You run hot water, run the garbage disposal, maybe squirt a little grease-cutting dishwashing liquid in there to make sure it all goes down smoothly. But once that oil is out of sight, it can turn into the stuff of nightmares.

In 2017, crews from Thames Water came across a 130-ton blockage in East London's sewer system. Shockingly, the mass was made up of a ghastly combination of congealed cooking oil, fat, grease, and hygiene products. It took crews slightly over a month to remove it.   

These monster blockages – Fatbergs - aren't just a problem for city authorities. When they grow out of control, they clog drain pipes and sewage can back up into your house. Nightmare.

What Exactly is a Fatberg?

The word fatberg is a portmanteau of the words “fat” and "iceberg" and they are essentially large masses of solidified fat. Once you pour cooking grease or oil down the drain, it cools and coagulates in the sewer. When a great number of home cooks dump their cooking fat and oil down the drain, the problem intensifies.

The one discovered in East London wasn't an exception: these things can be colossal. A fatberg found in the town of Devon took almost eight weeks to remove. It measured 210 feet, making it 42 feet longer than the White House.  

Environmental Concerns

As fatbergs grow, they heavily impact the sewerage systems in a city. For example, in Baltimore, a giant fatberg caused a 1.2 million-gallon sewage overflow.

Many people may not know that most sewer systems have built-in overflows (Combined Sewer Overflows).  These are "release valves" created to allow sewage to spill over into a river instead of causing a back-up in the primary sewer system.

Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) are intended to be used during emergencies. However, the formation of fatbergs hampers sewer flow, meaning that the system capacity is reduced, and hence the CSOs become activated. Typically, CSOs cause untreated sewage to spill over into streams, rivers, coastal waters, and beaches. Such toxic leaks and spillages are bad for the environment. They degrade water quality, contaminate drinking water sources, and harm aquatic habitats and ecosystems.         

Fatberg Removal is Expensive

Large fatbergs can take months to get rid of completely. Crews break up the monstrous clumps into smaller portions using pressure washers and slowly chipping away at the mass. Most of the fatberg has to be extracted by hand before it is put into trucks for disposal.

New York City's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) spends nearly $19 million annually to get rid of fatbergs from city sewers and fix the damage they cause. According to DEP, these costs are forwarded to NYC residents in the form of higher sewer and water rates. 

Close to home, fatbergs can clog up the inner lining of drain pipes, leading to backups and wastewater flooding into your garden or property. The drain pipes that connect your home to the public sewer are only around four inches wide, meaning waste matter can quickly accumulate. Even worse, huge fatbergs can cause the consequent bursting of your drain pipes, leading to unnecessary repair expense. In other words, pouring used cooking oil down the drain may end up being an expensive shortcut.

Be a Hero: Prevent Fatbergs

Who doesn’t love the sensory experience fried food provides? Consider the differences between deep-fried wings and the oven-roasted variety. Undoubtedly, the contrast between the crunchy and crispy skin and the flavorful tender meat inside stimulates senses that aren’t engaged in the same way with their oven-roasted counterparts. This guarantees that cooking oil will remain a key ingredient in our kitchens for many years to come.

Regulations have been developed for the food service industry and are firmly enforced; however, there is no such oversight for home use and disposal of used cooking oil. And again, the thought of not indulging in that mouthwatering crispy, fried chicken is unimaginable.

At FryAway, we believe we can play a significant role in simplifying this process and contributing to a healthier frying culture and better environment. Our product is 100% plant-based and safely solidifies used cooking oil for easy and mess-free disposal.

After frying, simply sprinkle FryAway into your hot cooking oil. As it cools, watch it transform into a solid organic oil cake that can be safely tossed in your regular household trash. FryAway is the easiest way to wipe out the mess associated with frying, while disposing of oil safely and responsibly.

So, whatever satisfies your cravings for crunch — chicken, cheesesticks or churros — go ahead and FryAway!   

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