Spotlight on our sewers and seas for Unblocktober

Each October, individuals and businesses are encouraged to consider the impact on what they put down their drains has on our planet, through the Unblocktober campaign.

As part of our year of environmental focus, we take a look at what the campaign is about.

What is Unblocktober?

It’s a month-long campaign that asks people to really stop and think about what they’re disposing of.

What we ditch must go somewhere, and often it causes considerable damage and impact to our sewers and poses a much bigger risk to our watercourses and seas.

Participants of Unblocktober make a commitment to change how they use their drains, both at work and at home – whilst considering what items are non-flushable and may end up in our open waters.

The scale of the problem

The rise in convenience over recent decades means the consumer market is now flooded with easy options – such as disposable wipes, cotton buds, disposable nappies, dental floss, contact lenses, margarine and cooking sauces.

Whilst many people know these items should not be flushed down the toilet or poured down the sink, some people still see this as the easiest and most convenient way to dispose of redundant items.

It’s a problem that comes at a significant cost to utility companies, who have to deal with the knock-on impact to our sewerage infrastructure. Fats, oils and grease combine together with items like wet wipes, which over time can create a block of consolidated mass, coined a fatberg. Water UK, estimate there are approximately 300,000 sewer blockages each year in the UK, at a cost of £100 million.

Whilst non-flushable items such as wipes and cotton buds can end up in our waterways – polluting our waters and putting our marine species at risk.

Insight from the Unblocktober campaign indicates that 48% of the nation still pour fats, oils and grease down their drains, and an estimated 1.8 billion cotton buds are flushed down the toilet each year.

Small changes you can make

Even the smallest changes help to tackle the problem. So, it’s worth considering what adjustments you can make throughout October, and ideally every month moving forward.

  • Tackle the fat – don’t pour fats, oils or grease down the drain when cooking, instead pour it into some kitchen foil and leave it to set before disposing of it in the bin. Kitchen towel can be another good way to soak up excess fat without pouring it away.
  • Carefully dispose of non-flushables – even if you’ve checked whether something is safe to flush down the toilet, consider whether it’s really necessary. The less items flushed away the better, as it will help to keep drains clear and avoid items entering our open water that won’t decompose.

Big changes you can make

Opting to completely adapt your behaviour is also a great way to help make sustainable change.

Consider ditching disposable items for reusable ones – looking at whether items really do need to be thrown away or whether they can be cleaned and reused. As the world begins to take our environmental impact more seriously, more and more sustainable products are being produced to help us reduce our need to purchase disposable items. So, it’s worth doing some research to see what can be swapped for more environmentally friendly options.

You can also look into volunteer opportunities to head down to your local watercourses and seas to help litter pick and remove dangerous plastic. It’s often a great way to meet new people, whilst helping to protect your local waters.

Find out more

To find out more about how we’re reducing our impact on the planet, click on the link below.

nrl and the environment

The NRL Group