Fatbergs: The data behind the growing phenomenon
Have you ever heard of a fatberg? Keep an eye on the news over the coming months and the chances are you will.
Utilities companies and drainage firms are coming across mammoth fatbergs on an increasingly regular basis and they are posing a huge problem to our waterways and marine life.
Here, we take a look at the statistics and facts behind this growing phenomenon.
What is a fatberg?
A fatberg is the equivalent of an iceberg, found down the sewer and consisting of a congealed, solid mass of fats, oils and grease (FOG) poured down the drain by the public.
The blockages are also made up of items that are regularly flushed, such as sanitary products, wet wipes, condoms and cotton buds.
For more information, take a look at our fatberg removal and cleaning page.
The most famous fatberg to date is probably the mammoth Whitechapel fatberg of 2017, which weighed 130 tonnes.
Its story was seen by more than 1 billion people around the world, and a piece of the fatberg now sits on display in the Museum of London, with a live webcam streaming its gradual disintegration.
But there are hundreds more fatbergs lurking beneath the ground all over the UK and we are tackling them daily. They are incredibly difficult to remove and many of them have to be destroyed by chipping away at the mass by hand.
Fatberg data and statistics
We are on a mission to educate the general public about these monsters so that they stop creating them in the first place.
As part of our campaign, we gathered original data about public opinion on issues surrounding fatbergs. Please note: this is taken from a 2018 survey; for the latest 2019 survey results and data please visit this page.
The findings of our survey are included below and we have made these statistics open to the public so you can use them as you see fit, ensuring lanesfordrains.co.uk is credited.
|Have you ever heard of the term ‘fatberg’?||%||Number of people|
|In your opinion which types of wet wipe are flushable?||%||Number of people|
|Ones that state that they are flushable on the packaging||35.3||403|
|None of them||63.56||724|
|Have you ever flushed a wet wipe down the toilet?||%||Number of people|
|Have you ever flushed kitchen roll down the toilet?||%||Number of people|
|Have you ever poured oil or fat generated from cooking down your kitchen sink?||%||Number of people|
|How frequently would you say you pour fats or oils down the sink?||%||Number of people|
|After every cooked meal||2.59||14|
|Once a day on average||1.48||8|
|Less than once a day on average||1.85||10|
|Twice a day on average||0||0|
|More than three times a day on average||0||0|
|At least once a week on average||11.11||60|
|At least once a month on average||12.96||70|
|Less than once a month||21.3||115|
|Less than once every three months||48.7||263|
|To what extent do you consider yourself aware of the dangers of pouring fats and oils down the drain?||%||Number of people|
|I don’t know||9.99||113|
|To what extent do you consider yourself aware of the dangers of flushing wet wipes down the toilet?||%||Number of people|
|Have you ever experienced a blocked drain in your household that has led to a plumber or professional being called out?||%||Number of people|
|I don’t know||2.21||25|
|Do you think the British public need more education about the dangers of fatbergs and how to avoid them?||%||Number of people|
|I don’t know||4.8||54|
|What do you think would be the most effective ways of improving awareness and education about what should and shouldn’t go into sinks, drains and pipes?||%||Number of people|
|Educating children in schools||60.68||682|
|Marketing, advertising or communication from utilities companies||58.9||662|
|Marketing, advertising or communication from the government||48.22||542|
|Posters and flyers for use in kitchens||29.45||331|
|No additional education is necessary||1.6||18|
|Which of the following disposable wipes do you have in your household? (Select all that apply)||%||Number of people|
|Antibacterial household cleaning wipes||52.27||586|
|Furniture/glass polish cleaning wipes||14.18||159|
|Toilet tissue-style wipes||24.09||270|
|Car interior-cleaning wipes||8.03||90|
|I do not use disposable wipes at all||16.5||185|
|Would you be in favour of the government banning the sale of any of the following types of wipes? (Select all that apply or ‘no’ if you are not in favour of any ban)||%||Number of people|
|Antibacterial household cleaning wipes||22.21||249|
|Furniture/glass polish cleaning wipes||26.67||299|
|Toilet tissue-style wipes||24.98||280|
|Car interior-cleaning wipes||25.16||282|
|Other (please specify)||0||0|
|No, I would not support the government banning the sale of any disposable wipes||59.32||665|
|If you answered yes to any of the above, which sentiment best describes your main reason for wanting the government to ban the sale of disposable wipes?||%||Number of people|
|Wipes contain hidden plastics, which are harmful to the environment||27.96||130|
|Wipes create fatbergs, which are very expensive to get rid of||19.14||89|
|Wipes are part of a ‘disposable culture’ that is bad for the environment||41.08||191|
|I do not use any type of wipe, so banning them wouldn’t affect me personally||3.66||17|
|It is the government’s job to change consumer behaviour||4.95||23|
|If you answered no to the above, what is your main reason for being against a potential government ban on disposable wipes?||%||Number of people|
|I rely on wipes and any alternative would be too expensive||8.88||58|
|I rely on wipes and any alternative would be too inconvenient||10.26||67|
|I don’t personally use wipes, but I know lots of people who rely on them and would struggle without them||5.82||38|
|The government should not make this kind of decision about consumer behaviour||11.03||72|
|I do not believe wipes harm the environment||0.77||5|
|There is nothing wrong with wipes, as long as people dispose of them correctly||43.03||281|
|I do not care that wipes harm the environment or create fatbergs, as long as they do not cause a problem in my own home||0.15||1|
|A total ban seems too extreme||17.3||113|
Source: Survey conducted in July 2018 by Lanes Group plc. 1,158 total respondents.