Putting St Andrews' Drains on a Diet

13 September 2018
Putting St Andrews Drains on a Diet
Putting St Andrews Drains on a Diet
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Pilot Project Unveiled

Fat Free Sewers Project launched in St Andrews to reduce sewer blockages

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Scottish Water is to step up its fight against fatbergs which can cause major flooding and pollution with the launch of a new project.

A new pilot being trialled in St Andrews aims to substantially reduce the number of blockages in the sewer system caused by fat, oil and grease – referred to as FOG - being incorrectly disposed of by businesses which serve food.

Across Scotland the utility attends an average 95 blockages in the sewer systems every day – at a cost of £6.5 million a year.

More than half of all blockages in Scotland’s sewer are caused by FOG being disposed of incorrectly down drains and sinks. Over time it is the build-up of these substances which cause fatbergs which block the sewers and cause flooding and pollution.

The Fat Free Sewer project – the first of its kind in Scotland – will see every food service establishment including take-aways, cafes, restaurants and hotels visited by food waste management experts.

Businesses will be advised on the best ways to dispose of FOG and told if the grease management systems they have – if they have one at all - is sufficient for their needs. It is estimated that Scotland-wide around eight in ten establishments have inadequate or no system in place at all.

A team of Network Protection Officers from Environmental Compliance & Services (ECAS) will visit food service establishments on behalf of Scottish Water in the busiest part of central St Andrews. Where they find a grease management system in a kitchen which is inefficient they will offer advice what improvements should be made this and return at a later date to see if the necessary action has been taken.

Mike Will, Waste Water Operations General Manager at Scottish Water, said: “Many blockages in our sewer network occur as a result of the incorrect disposal of fats and oils into the sewer system. The consequences on the environment can be huge – it can cause flooding to properties and roads and pollute rivers, as well as impacting valuable assets such as bathing waters.

“Currently Scottish Water visits food service establishments on a reactive basis, once blockages have occurred. In some cases these are a one off events, but sometimes we do get called to the same locations.

“This pilot project, for the first time, will see us proactively visiting food serving premises, giving them advice and guidance on what they can do to protect and preserve our valuable sewer network. We are effectively attempting to put St Andrews’ drains on a diet.

“Even the way businesses wash pots, plates and utensils with greasy residue on them can have a profound impact on our sewers. FOG congeals in our sewers and causes blockages. Additionally if you combine FOG to other things which should not be in our network – such as wet wipes and sanitary items – the consequences can be catastrophic in terms of flooding and pollution.

“The best way to tackle blocked drains and sewers is prevention and projects like this, combined with our customer campaign Keep the cycle running smoothly -  which asks that only pee, poo and (toilet) paper enters the sewers - is the best way to do this’.”

St Andrews was picked for the six-month pilot project as it has more than 100 establishments which serve food, all within close proximity, and is a busy university town popular with tourists. If the project succeeds in cutting blockages due to FOG it is set to be rolled out to other parts of Scotland.

Iain Clunie, Food and Drink Programme Manager at Zero Waste Scotland, said: “At Zero Waste Scotland, we're always keen to encourage businesses to waste as little as possible. It’s not just food waste that can be recycled – cooking oils can also be turned into valuable products such as biofuels. There are a range of services on offer for collecting and recycling used cooking oils and I hope businesses will consider them as part of their plans for keeping fats, oils and grease out of our drains.”

The project was also welcomed by Pete Leonard, Operations Director at Keep Scotland Beautiful. He said: “We welcome the launch of this proactive new project to stop kitchen fats, oils and grease from entering our drains and wider marine environment. We must think carefully about what we put down drains – whether that is flushing wet wipes or cotton buds, or putting fats, oils or grease down the sink.”

The project will see Scottish Water work with the Environmental team at Fife Council to encourage businesses to dispose of FOG responsibly. Councillor Ross Vettraino, Fife Council’s Environment Spokesman, said: “An efficient sewerage system is an unseen but essential component of an environment, which we can enjoy and of which we can all be proud. Scottish Water is to be applauded for this initiative and I am confident the Council’s Environmental Health resource will be pleased to work with Scottish Water to ensure its success.”

It is an offence under the Sewerage (Scotland) Act 1968 to interfere with the free flow of the sewers – fat, oil and grease do this when they congeal. Under the Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2012, urban food businesses - such as cafés, restaurants or food takeaways -  which produce over 5 kg of food waste per week also have to present food waste separately for collection unless excluded by a rural location

Philip Soden, Managing Director of ECAS, said: “We are excited to be working with Scottish Water on this project. We have extensive experience working with the food service sector to ensure waste FOG is trapped at source and providing the right advice and education to achieve this. We are looking forward to working in partnership with all food service businesses in St Andrews to reduce FOG currently entering the public sewerage system.

ECAS has experience of this issue worldwide and has developed strong working relationships with the food service sector from working on similar projects with Water Utility companies in England.


  • Fat, oil and grease in liquid form may not appear to be harmful but as it cools it congeals and hardens
  • This can cause blockages to the inner lining of drainage pipes, which can lead to waste water 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, coastal waters and beaches, causing environmental damage
  • Scottish Water deals with 37,000 blockages every year – at a cost of £6.5 million to attend and clear
  • The waste water drain which runs from your house to the public sewer is usually only about four inches wide, which is less than the diameter of a DVD
  • Scottish Water maintains and improves over 30,000 miles of sewer pipes which take waste water away from homes and business premises across Scotland. We then treat this at over 1,800 waste water treatment works before returning it to the environment
  • Everything you put down your plugholes, toilets and drains will all end up in the drains and sewers
  • Whether it is saturated fat (like lard), mono-unsaturated fat (like olive oil) or vegetable oil, they all congeal and harden
    For more info visit our Keep the Water Cycle Running Smoothly campaign