1,000 Tonnes of Fast Fry Fat Clog Leicester Square Sewers

I use to think it was an urban legend that fat dumped from fast-food outlets coagulates in huge mounds in London’s sewers. Now I know it is true. This is from a recent edition of  “The Independent” newspaper.

Thames Water Fat Buster

“Enough fat to fill nine double-decker buses is being removed from sewers under London’s Leicester Square.  A team of “flushers” equipped with full breathing apparatus has been drafted in with shovels to dig out an estimated 1,000 tonnes of putrid fat. And powerful jets are being used to break it down. We’re used to getting our hands dirty, but nothing on this scale,” sewer flusher Danny Brackley said. “We couldn’t even access the sewer, as it was blocked by a four-foot thick [120cm] wall of solid fat.” That from their edition published on the 14th July 2010

Where did it come from I wonder? There are a number of fast-food outlets on Leicester Square, here some images of the largest of them…

Macdonald's Leicester Square

Burger King Leicester Square

KFC Leicester Square

I would hope that all of these venues are fully equipped with fat-recycling equipment. Don’t you?  MacDonald’s apparently does use waste fat from many of its outlets to make the biodiesel that fuels its vehicles. That is a much better option that the old method of disposal used by some companies. It was used as an source of protein in animal feed.  In other words, cows were sometimes fed on cow. It sounds disgusting and it was.

I have tried to discover what happens to this material now and emailed Thames Water for an answer but for whatever reason, I have not received a reply. To be fair, they point out that half of the 60,000 sewer blockages reported last year were caused by oil, grease and fat and recommend to widespread use of fat-traps.

If you are concerned that your domestic fry-ups are causing blockages, they suggest that you wait for fat used in cooking to solidify then dispose of it in the rubbish bin. Sound advice in my opinion…

About stevehollier

Steve Hollier is the editor of AZ Magazine, an English language lifestyle magazine based in Baku, Azerbaijan. He began his career working for a firm of stockbrokers in the City of London then went on to attend the University of Essex where he was awarded an MA in Sociology in 1984. After a career in arts and cultural development work, he became a freelance arts consultant, writer and photographer.
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4 Responses to 1,000 Tonnes of Fast Fry Fat Clog Leicester Square Sewers

  1. Hugh Paxton says:

    I guess that’s what they mean when they talk of clogged arteries.

    In slightly different clogging news, thousands of condoms flushed down toilets by athletes in the Commonwealth Games village are threatening to bung everything up big time.

    In a blindlingly audacious, nay superb!!! piece of spin, Commonwealth Games Federation President, Mike Fennell, applauded the potentially catastrophic development/sewage explosion/cholera risk. “It shows there is a use of condoms and I think that is a positive story. Athletes are being responsible,” he said.

    Nice work, Mike! Athletes certainly are responsible! It’s your judicious addition of the word ‘being’ that turns the whole thing upside down so neatly!

  2. stevehollier says:

    I am very happy to record that Thames Water have sent me the following response to my query:

    08 October 2010

    Our Ref: 692400

    Fat recovered from London’s Sewers

    Dear Mr Hollier

    Thank you for your email of 6 October 2010.

    The fat that has been recovered from the London Sewer’s is turned into bio
    diesel and then used to
    power our desalination plant.

    I hope this is of assistance to you.

    Yours sincerely

    Mark Wood
    Customer Relations

  3. Julia says:

    I do hope MacDonalds is paying them for the machinery to do it: it would be good PR for them to set that up.
    And there was me almost becoming National Recycling Co-ordinator for Friends of the Earth 25 years ago. A Tristan got the job. Who he?

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