Vancouver ad campaign aims to prevent sewer 'fatbergs'
City officials in Vancouver are asking residents to stop pouring cooking oil or grease down the drain because it’s clogging up sewer pipes and leading to the growth of “fatbergs.”
Metro Vancouver says it spends $2 million every year to unblock sewer pipes and repair the damage caused by household grease.
While pouring a little grease down the drain after frying up burgers or bacon may seem harmless enough, the grease mixes with hair and other debris to form “fatbergs”: congealed masses of fat that can become as hard as concrete.
“People take their fats and oils and they run some hot water or they put some detergent with it and they think it disappears down the drain,” North Vancouver Mayor and Metro Vancouver’s Utilities Committee Chair Darrell Mussatto told CTV Vancouver.
“The problem is that after just a few metres of getting into our system, it solidifies again and it sticks to each other and it can block our sewage pipes.”
All kinds of grease can lead to problems, including meat drippings, butter, cooking oil and more.
Last month, officials in London, U.K., discovered a 250-metre-long fatberg in the city’s sewer system that’s estimated to weigh more than 140 tons. The blob, made of congealed fat, oil and flushed baby wipes, will need to be destroyed with high-powered jet hoses.
Wanting to avoid a similar mess, Metro Vancouver has launched a new public awareness campaign called “Wipe It, Green Bin It.” The campaign is aimed at getting people to scrape or wipe out their cooking pans and butter dishes and then composting the grease, instead of washing it down the drain.
“As we celebrate Thanksgiving with fat-rich foods, like gravy and roast turkey, we hope residents will use this easy method to dispose of their oil and cooking fats,” Mussatto said in a statement.
A similar awareness campaign has already begun successfully in Surrey and Richmond.
“We saw a marked difference,” Mussatto said. “The pipes were kept a lot cleaner and it was a lot less money for us to clean those drains.”
Most organic recycling programs accept small amounts of oil and grease. Those who need to dispose of large quantities or cooking oil or greases must do so at specialized recycling depots.
Grease isn’t the only household item that shouldn’t be flushed into the sewer system. Flushable wipes should be disposed of in garbage containers, even if they claim to be “flushable,” because they simply don’t break down well enough.
Dental floss and tissues should also never be flushed away; the same goes for tampons, cotton balls, and even hair.