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Environmental Impact of Fatbergs

Environmental Impact of Fatbergs


Fatbergs cause an inconvenience to houses and local businesses by blocking pipes, but did you know that fatbergs can cause flooding too?

Photo 3 (1)

Photo copyright United Utilities

When fatbergs form they can become as hard as concrete and completely block the pipe. Sewage such as pee and poo continues to try to go through the drain but has no choice but to come back up. This means that houses, businesses and rivers can all be flooded with sewage.

Sewage which contains human waste and has not been processed and treated yet is dangerous. This is because human waste can contain a lot of harmful bacteria which, if it gets into rivers and canals, can destroy everything living in it.

Sewage can cause water to become dark and murky which can make it harder for fish to see and to breathe. Algae grows in a darker environment preventing light and oxygen from getting into the water. This can cause marine life like fish and plants to suffocate as the algae uses all the oxygen.

Wet Wipes

Waste which forms fatbergs, such as wipes, can end up in our rivers, canals and seas. Flushing a wipe is like dropping one directly into the ocean.

Due to the size and amount of wipes, water treatment plants are unable to capture all the wipes when processing the water. As a result environmental organisations have found that wipes are now settling and changing the shape of riverbeds.

Wipes are made with plastic fibres so they do not biodegrade and can take years to break down. This can mean they settle and collect on the riverbed, eventually altering the way the river is shaped.

Over many years wipes degrade slowly and, as they do, they release micro-plastics into the river. This can cause marine life, like fish, to mistake the wipes for food and eat them.

If there are many wipes in one area, the fish cannot avoid taking in the high amount of plastic. The plastic involved with the making of wipes is toxic to fish and can result in their death.

Moreover, wipes are able to cover underwater plants, causing the light the plants need to be blocked out. This means all marine life in one river can be destroyed entirely by wipes.

Sanitary products

Sanitary products and tampons are similar to wet wipes when they are flushed down the toilet as they can easily end up in canals and rivers. This is very bad for the environment as tampon applicators are made entirely out of plastic and sanitary towels are believed to be as plastic based as 4 plastic bags, this means they will not biodegrade.

Sanitary products make up an estimated 21,500 to 43,000 tonnes of waste in the UK each year.

Every day in the UK it is estimated that approximately 700,000 panty liners, 2.5 million tampons and 1.4 million sanitary towels are flushed down the toilet. This not only contributes to the pollution of rivers, but significantly contributes to the £100 million bill the UK pays each year on average to unblock drains.

So, if you stick to the rule of the three Ps and bin it don’t flush it, you can help prevent large amounts of plastic entering rivers, whilst protecting your own home from potential flooding.

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