Uncovering Value Within the UK’s Drains & Sewers

Posted in: feedstocks

In this article, we discuss the issues associated with the build-up of fats, oils and greases in the national sewage system, and we explore solutions to mitigate those problems, while valorising the products themselves.

Across the UK, anger surrounding the state of our rivers and beaches continues to grow amid recurring reports of hazardous sewage spilling into our waterways at near unprecedented rates. It comes as over 384,000 discharges of both treated sewage and untreated sewage overflows were recorded in England and Wales throughout 2022. A problem caused primarily by a lack of system maintenance and chronic underinvestment in the nation’s sewage network. In real terms, spending on wastewater infrastructure has fallen from an average of £3 billion in the 1990s to roughly £2.7 billion today, despite a population increase of 16% over the past two decades. The result is a sewerage system that is frequently overwhelmed causing raw effluent to be routinely discharged through sewer overflow pipes (pipes that were originally designed to be used during periods of heavy rain only).

The root cause of sewage spills can be attributed to a number of critical factors, including, a lack of sufficient capacity across the network, infrastructure damage and system failure, heavy or continued rainfall, and blockages within sewers and drains. It is believed that blockages account for around 80% of all sewer flooding incidents in the UK each year, resulting in the flooding of over 5,000 properties annually. Furthermore, approximately 370,000 sewer blockages are reported every year in the UK, and up to 75% of these are understood to be directly caused by substances collectively referred to as “fat, oil, and grease”, otherwise known as FOG.

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This article was written by Sophie Mason, Senior Consultant.

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