Reasons for blocked and clogged drains in Wirral and the Northwest

FatbergThe average North West household pours 14Ibs of fat, oils and grease (FOG) down the drain in a year. Across the region, this equates to 2.9 million stone – the weight of over 243,000 UK adults (more than the population of Oldham!).

Where does all this fat come from? The answer could be a fondness for frying. According to a study into the region’s “fat habits”, which examined how we eat, cook and dispose of the calorific culprit, one in five North West residents fry food at least three days a week.

The study was conducted by water company United Utilities to discover more about the fat which all too often ends up down our drains. 
Adrian Booth, from United Utilities, who has witnessed first-hand the misery and damage caused by fat being put down the drains said: “We are always being called out to unblock pipes and sewers clogged with solidified fats. Fixing problems is both costly and disruptive, and on those occasions when it’s not our responsibility to fix, it can mean the homeowner having to call out a plumber or a drainage contractor which unfortunately may result in an unwanted hefty bill. 
“The aim of this study was to understand more about how people use and dispose of fats in order to better tackle the issue. As we suspected, many people dispose of fat and food waste by pouring it down the sink or loo, rather than putting it in the bin, even though a large number know that doing so will cause blockages and damage to pipes. But the real surprise was how that fat is generated in the first place.” 
In addition to being ‘frequent fryers’ the study found that:

• One in six use more oil/butter than they know they should 
• Even when following recipes, one in ten will ignore instructions and boost butter or oil levels in their food 
• Half never trim the fat off meat like bacon or pork chops 
• One in ten use at least three tablespoons of oil to fry food 
• One in thirteen never grill meat or fish – they always fry it 
• One in thirty has never cooked a vegetable other than a potato

The study also found that people are keen for change. This year, over 80% of people want to ditch their bad cooking habits and lose weight by eating more healthily.

On the back of the findings, United Utilities has therefore teamed up with award-winning chef Mary-Ellen McTague to launch a “Fight the Fat” campaign that aims to help both people and pipes ditch the grease in 2015.

Mary-Ellen said: “It’s of great concern to hear the amount of fat and grease the North West is pouring down the sink, particularly when it causes such widespread blockage and pollution issues. But I’m also interested in why we are generating such huge quantities of fat in the first place?

“Making a few simple changes to how we prepare our food could help reduce the amount of fat going down our drains and into our bodies, so here are a few tips.”

1) There’s no need to add fat when cooking all but the leanest of meats- for example, pork chops, leg, shoulder and belly and most cuts of lamb already have enough fat on them and certainly don’t need any more adding. 
2) Fatty meats, such as the above mentioned, plus bacon, whole roast chickens etc. will release a lot of fat when they are cooked. This can be drained off into a pot and reused when making casseroles, soups and gravies so that nothing is getting wasted, and nothing is going down the drain where it can potentially cause problems. 
3) Using low cholesterol oils are better for our bodies, but also less likely to clog drains if they do happen to find their way into the basin than animal fats. Try brushing lean meats and fish very lightly with olive oil, then chargrilling instead of frying. The flavour is good, and a minimal amount of fat is required.

United Utilities will be sharing more advice and regular low-fat recipes from Mary-Ellen through its online Customer Café – – and via its social media channels.

Adrian added: “We all know that eating fatty foods is bad for our arteries, but it is also bad for the North West’s underground arteries – our pipes and sewer system. They really do need a fat free diet!

“By offering people useful advice from a top chef on cooking with less fat, and linking this in with our own work on how to dispose of fats and food scraps properly, we hope we can help both people and pipes shed pounds this year.”

But what are the dishes we are most likely to cook that create troublesome fatty leftovers? There are some interesting variations across the region:



Most popular in…

% who cook this at least once a week

% who pour/flush leftover fats down the plughole


Pasta bake 




Roast dinner and trimmings

Merseyside & The Wirral







Red meat 

Greater Manchester



Oven cooked ready meals 





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