The 2023 Unblocktober Awards: The Winners

Friday 8th December, 2023

The second annual Unblocktober Awards has attracted a really strong crop of nominees, all of whom have gone above and beyond to exemplify the spirit of Unblocktober, and raise awareness of the campaign and its goals. However, there can only be one set of winners - and we’re delighted to announce the recipients of this year’s awards!

These three candidates have demonstrated a strong commitment to the Unblocktober principles - not just during the campaign month, but across everything they do, all year round. Each of them has already been presented with their special commemorative trophies to mark their achievement, and will be able to proudly display their digital winners’ badges online!

Here are the three winners of the Unblocktober Awards for 2023:

Our 2023 Business Champion of the Year: The Forth Rivers Trust

The Forth Rivers Trust is a charity committed to protecting and conserving the environment, wildlife and communities within the Forth District, and providing a voice for rivers at a national, regional and local scale. They’ve been keen supporters of Unblocktober since its first edition in 2019, and have been selected as our 2023 Business Champion of the Year due to their longstanding commitment to protecting our rivers and waterways from pollution.

As a charity of river workers, the Trust has seen some worrying sights while out and about visiting sites, including wet wipe rags at river edges and outfall screens, and greasy or filmy water near outfalls where there's been oil in the water. As such, the organisation has thrown their full weight

behind Unblocktober and its goals, in both big and small ways.

The Trust has been doing incredible work in embodying the Unblocktober ethos in practical ways. They are running an Outfall Safari along the Lothian Esk, to empower local citizens to recognise signs of pollution in their local river, classify the pollution type, and mark the outfall on a map, so that the Trust can monitor it and report it to the relevant authorities. They also use images and videos captured from their outdoor work to demonstrate the impacts of non-flushable items reaching our sewers and seas - from a years-old perfectly preserved Wispa wrapper or wet wipe rags choking up sewage treatment plant screens, to outfalls covered in discoloured plastics.

Additionally, the Trust ran an Unblocktober awareness campaign across all of its social media platforms, as well as introducing sink strainers in the Trust’s office and putting up posters from the resource pack in the shared office space toilets, to educate other users of the building about what not to flush. They also demonstrated what happens when non-flushable items impact our waters, aiming to prevent the temptation people might feel about easily getting rid of something, as well as sharing blog posts discussing how long plastics take to degrade, to really drive the message home.

Elijah Graham, nature communications assistant at the Forth Rivers Trust, said that taking part in the campaign has given the trust an opportunity to broadcast what they know about river pollution to the wider public - as well as giving the trust’s staff an opportunity to learn a little bit more themselves about what it takes to keep our sewers and seas safe.

He explained: “When we first found out about Unblocktober on social media, we felt we could add our voice to the campaign and raise more awareness about these issues, having seen them first-hand. We were keen to get involved, as we're passionate about the wildlife and habitats in and around our rivers, as well as the people that enjoy them - and we know the countless negative impacts that non-flushable items can have on our freshwater.

“I think all of our staff have become more aware of the measures we can take to protect our drains. I will be educating others around me whenever I see them about to pour fat, oil or grease (FOG) down the drain, and also starting more conversations about steps we can take together among my friends and family. Personally, I also purchased a sink strainer for my flat, to ensure no crumbs or remnants of food are going down the drain when I'm washing my dishes - something I hadn't even considered before.

“Unblocktober shows that even small changes can have a big impact, and we can all make a difference if we raise a bit of awareness. Something small, like taking maybe five seconds to wipe out a greasy container before recycling, can have such a big, positive impact down the line - so these are good habits to get into!

“Our key message would be that saving our sewers, rivers and seas starts with us. Direct actions that we already see people doing, such as litter-picking groups, can be very helpful, but I think awareness campaigns like Unblocktober are important too - because preventing the issue reaching our waters in the first place is much better (and cheaper, and better for the environment) than dealing with it once it's there. So it would be great to see more people spreading the word and discussing campaigns like Unblocktober!”

You can learn more about the Forth Rivers Trust by visiting their website:

Our 2023 Individual Champion of the Year: Fleur Anderson

Fleur Anderson is the MP for Putney, Roehampton & Southfields, and the current Shadow Minister for Northern Ireland. For years, she has been one of Parliament’s leading voices in the national fight against plastic pollution, lobbying for stronger national plastic reduction targets, and spearheading a groundbreaking bill to ban plastic in wet wipes.

There are few individuals who deserve the title of Unblocktober Champion more than Ms Anderson, as she has been embodying and advocating for the goals of the campaign throughout her life and career to date. She has witnessed the impact of fatbergs and wet wipe-bergs on our natural environment first-hand, having personally taken part in cleanup events to remove them with other

volunteers on the banks of the River Thames. She is also scrupulous about binning fat and wet wipes in her own day-to-day life.

Having heard about Unblocktober online, Ms Anderson was immediately energised by the amount of momentum the campaign has already generated, and took the opportunity to post several videos online urging the public to take up the Unblocktober pledge. Even more importantly, she has been championing the Unblocktober campaign at the very highest level of government - and managed to achieve an important milestone in her campaign to ban plastic in wet wipes during the month of October.

Fleur said: “Since becoming an MP, banning plastic in wet wipes has been high up on my list of campaigns. Plastic pollution causing blockages in our sewers, and permanent environmental damage to our rivers and lakes, is heartbreaking. I believe we can and will reach a plastic-free and blockage-free future, and I know Unblocktober has played an important role in that.

“As an MP, I have the very fortunate opportunity to make the case for Unblocktober to the very people who make our laws, and that is what I have been doing. I have made several speeches and asked countless questions to the Government in the House of Commons on this vital concern for people across the country. Holding the Government to account and talking to MPs from across the House is the best way I can effect the change we need.

“After years of campaigning, the Government finally set up a consultation on banning plastic in wet wipes, which would make such a colossal difference to our sewers and drains. I feel proud to have pushed the Government this far, but I will not stop until the ban is finally in legislation.

“Our sewers, drains and waterways are so incredibly precious for us, and for the generations to come. It is our duty to treat them with care, and that is why I urge everyone to do all they can to make sure they work for years and years. If you are not sure, bin it - never take the chance!”

You can find out more about Fleur Anderson at, including information about the various environmental and climate-related campaigns she supports.

Our 2023 Newcomer of the Year: The University of Hertfordshire

As one of the UK’s most modern and forward-looking universities, we were delighted to see the University of Hertfordshire commit to Unblocktober for the first time in 2023. The university has taken Unblocktober as an opportunity to engage its student body on an important environmental issue, as part of its broader commitment to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, and thoroughly deserves our Newcomer of the Year award.

Having learned of Unblocktober through an environmental awareness calendar, the university organised a wide range of activities to promote the Unblocktober message. Most notably, the Environmental Sustainability team organised a “What Can Go Down the Drain?” game to educate

students and staff that FOG, food and items containing plastic cannot go down the sink or toilet, running this awareness stall on both of the university’s campuses. as well as at a civic reception event for students.

Additionally, work was done alongside the Estates team to introduce bins in all of the university’s toilets and strainers to all of the sinks, while litter-picking events were organised to prevent further waste ending up in our waterways. Throughout the month, the university also spread the Unblocktober message through social media, staff and student emails, and regular newsletters.

Jessica Money, engagement coordinator for the university’s Environmental Sustainability team, said the overall goal was to raise awareness of the environmental, economic and health costs of putting the wrong items down the drain, and in doing so to persuade others to take up the Unblocktober challenge.

She explained: “The main thing we learned from our first Unblocktober is that a lot of people are unaware of what can and can’t go down the drain, and so it is highly important that we continue to raise awareness and educate.

“Going forward, we have a plan to work closely with the university’s Accommodation team to improve drain health in the halls of residences, and ensure students and staff are educated on sustainable drain habits as part of their induction.

“We would like to see more people reducing their plastic waste, and ensuring they dispose of their waste correctly to help save our sewers and seas from pollution. We will certainly be taking part in Unblocktober again next year to spread the message: think before you pour or flush to protect our environment!”

You can learn more about the University of Hertfordshire’s sustainability commitments here.

Thanks again to everyone who put forward nominations for the second annual Unblocktober Awards. Please join us again next year, when we will choose another set of worthy Unblocktober Award winners!