With families getting together this week for Christmas dinner, Scottish Water is encouraging Three Towns residents to think about how we dispose of cooking fats and oils once the festive food has been prepared.
Over time, cooking fats, oils and grease poured down the sink or drain can build up and cause blockages in drains and sewer pipes that prevent wastewater from properly draining away, often leading to unpleasant internal sewage-flooding or environmental pollution.
Scottish Water is reminding us that it is important we responsibly dispose of cooking fats, oils and grease by leaving them to cool and then placing them in a suitable container, such as an empty milk carton, before putting them in the bin or recycling, if possible.
Animal fats and meat juices can also harm our feathered friends, so kitchen scraps should not be used to feed winter birds.
Louise Purves from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) explained, “Fat from cooking can be really bad news for birds. The problem with cooked fat from roasting tins and dishes is that the meat juices have blended with the fat and when allowed to set, this consistency makes it prone to smearing. This can damage birds' feathers at a time when they need to be in top condition to stay warm. But don't let this put you off feeding garden birds - there are loads of leftovers that are perfectly suitable.”
Scottish Water is supporting the RSPB’s advice encouraging householders to leave out leftovers, such as cake and biscuit crumbs, mild grated cheese, cooked rice, uncooked porridge oats, cooked potatoes and bruised fruit. However, the utility company is asking customers not to leave out fats from roasting tins, frying pans or pots.
Jane McKenzie, Scottish Water’s Community Team Manager for Ayrshire, said, “While it is important that our customers do not pour fats, oils and grease down the kitchen sink or drain, it is also vital that they dispose of such residue responsibly, rather than leaving it out for winter birds.
“There is a misconception that sewers are vast, cavernous tunnels but in truth the majority are very narrow pipes, of no more than a few inches in diameter. It is very easy for these narrow pipelines to become blocked, causing wastewater to back-up and spill. Reducing blockages would not only protect customers from internal flooding or environmental pollution – it would also help Scottish Water continue to keep average customer charges low.”
Nationally, Scottish Water spends £7-million a year responding to over 40,000 calls about blockages in the sewer network, 80% of which are caused by household waste that should go in the bin.
Fats, oil and grease in liquid form may not appear to be harmful but as it cools it congeals and hardens. This can then cause blockages to the inner lining of drainage pipes, which, in turn, can lead to wastewater flooding into gardens and properties, causing a health hazard to wildlife and the local environment. In extreme cases, blocked sewers can spill into burns, rivers, streams and beaches, causing environmental damage.