Five Years of Unblocktober: A 2023 Recap

2023 marked the fifth anniversary of our flagship public awareness campaign, Unblocktober. This initiative, built to spread awareness and cultivate a cultural shift in the nation’s attitudes towards drain and sewer misuse, has a powerful impact each year and will continue to do so moving forward.

In honour of half a decade of Fatberg fighting, we’d like to take a look at what the Unblocktober campaign has achieved in the last five years to support drain health around the UK.

National Support

The success of any campaign is down to the people who participate, and since its launch in 2019 Unblocktober has had reach, participation rates and growth far wider than the team at Lanes foresaw. From 4,500 participants in its first year, Unblocktober has now aggregated a total of nearly 70,000 participants across both individual and business sign-ups.

That’s no small feat, and with so many participants doing their bit across the country, both at home and at work, the knock-on effects for the nation’s drain health are immeasurable. With 65,000 blockages caused each year by the wrong things going down the drain, each and every sign-up to the Unblocktober helps to improve the state of our drains and reduce the risk of serious damage.

Industry Leaders, Influencers and Outlets

Core to the success of any campaign is making sure people know about it, and Unblocktober has had some unprecedented support over the years from the likes of Thames Water, Severn Trent Water, Anglian Water, Southern Water, Yorkshire Water and United Utilities, as well as Water UK, Love Water and the Environment Agency.

And the support isn’t limited to the industry. Unblocktober has received some amazing coverage from some of the UKs leading news outlets including the BBC, ITV, the Daily Mail, the Daily Express, and Yahoo as well as the backing of MPs Cherilyn Mackrory and Fleur Anderson, and support from TalkTalk, the University of Hertfordshire and the Cheshire Wildlife Trust.

2022 Manchester Canal Clean-Up

The last five years have been full of great work and really powerful progress to spread awareness and change behaviours for the better, but one of the stand-out achievements is the Manchester canal cleanup in 2022.

On October 25th 2022, the Unblocktober team and supporters took to the canal banks and spent two hours clearing rubbish from the New Islington area of Manchester. In that time, we cleared ten bin bags of litter, including cotton buds, wet wipe, glass, plastic bags and more – all of which would have be carried through the waterways and allowed to damage the environment.

The clean-up initiative was a chance to put into perspective just how widespread the issue of littering and misuse of the drains is around the UK. The items we flush and fling end up stuck in our environment, clogging up rivers and canals with items that are frequently non-degradable and sit for hundreds of years.

As we continue with Unblocktober, we hope to organise more initiatives like the Manchester clean-up, and can continue to have a tangible impact on the communities Lanes Group support.

What’s Next for Unblocktober?

There are exciting things to come as we look to expand Unblocktober from a seasonal campaign to a year-round initiative in the coming years. We are looking to increase our presence at conferences and festivals where we can continue to spread awareness of the importance of mindful drain usage and sensible disposal of food waste and disposables items.

Lanes is also excited to work closely with partners to provide unified, nationwide messaging that reaches the widest possible audience, as well as increase our national presence with pop-ups and road-show events that will help to further get our message to the public.

In the coming years, we want to outgrow our month initiative and make Unblocktober a household name all year round. Caring for our drains and making sensible waste disposal decisions is something we should all be doing every day – in fact, it should be second nature.

Unblocktober has had five great years, but we are only getting started. The next five have so much potential and we would love you to get involved at home and in your workplace. October may be over, but you can still do your part to help keep the UK’s drain systems healthy and functional, for the benefit of the public and our environment.

You can read more about the Unblocktober campaign for 2023 and previous years here.

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