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.

Famous Fatbergs

Lanes Utilities working hard to remove the Whitechapel Fatberg

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

fatbergtable1

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
Yes 76.81% 934
No 23.19% 282
In your opinion which types of wet wipe are flushable? % Number of people
All kinds 1.05 12
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
Yes 30.55 348
No 69.45 791
Have you ever flushed kitchen roll down the toilet? % Number of people
Yes 31.96 364
No 68.04 775
Have you ever poured oil or fat generated from cooking down your kitchen sink? % Number of people
Yes 47.41 540
No 52.59 599
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
Very aware 37.93 429
Quite aware 37.49 424
I don’t know 9.99 113
Quite unaware 10.34 117
Very unaware 4.24 48
To what extent do you consider yourself aware of the dangers of flushing wet wipes down the toilet? % Number of people
Very aware 52.17 590
Quite aware 37.22 421
Quite unaware 7.25 82
Very unaware 3.36 38
Have you ever experienced a blocked drain in your household that has led to a plumber or professional being called out? % Number of people
Yes 21.04 238
No 76.75 868
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
Yes 93.24 1048
No 1.96 22
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
Online resources 26.96 303
Posters and flyers for use in kitchens 29.45 331
No additional education is necessary 1.6 18
Other 7.47 84
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
Baby wipes 44.07 494
Makeup wipes 38.98 437
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
Other 1.07 12
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
Baby wipes 14.9 167
Makeup wipes 22.75 255
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
Other 3.93 44
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
Other 3.23 15
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
Other 2.76 18

Source: Survey conducted in July 2018 by Lanes Group plc. 1,158 total respondents.

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