Unblocktober: Top Tips and Products to Protect Your Drains

Friday 13th September, 2019

The first ever Unblocktober campaign is now less than a month away. This groundbreaking initiative from Lanes Group is designed to raise awareness of the importance of protecting our sewers and seas, and we’re happy to report that businesses and households across the country are signing up in droves to take part!

The goal of Unblocktober is simple – to encourage people in the UK to do their bit to protect the nation’s waterways by avoiding putting certain items down their drains or toilets for the whole month, including wet wipes, plastic products, and fat, oil and grease (FOG). The initiative has attracted support from some of the UK’s leading organisations, and is an official part of the national Love Water campaign.

If you haven’t yet signed up and are wondering how you can get involved, then it’s quite simple: sign up as a participant online, either as an individual or as a business, and commit the effort of changing your drainage habits throughout the month of October! To get you started, here are a few simple tips on some of the methods you can use, and the products you can buy, to make your Unblocktober a success.

Protecting your drains: the basics

No matter where you live or work, everyone in the UK depends on the smooth running of the nation’s drain and sewer system for a good quality of life. Not only do blocked drains caused a major inconvenience for property owners, they can also lead to pollution in the streets, rivers and watercourses, with dire consequences for public health and the local environment.

The most common issues are caused by property owners carelessly discarding non-biodegradable items down their sinks or toilets, not realising that they will often amass and congeal in the sewer system as enormous, immovable obstructions called fatbergs.

The following items can all contribute to the formation of fatbergs, which is why we’re asking Unblocktober participants to avoid putting any of them down the drain during the campaign month:

  • Butter
  • Lard
  • Cooking sauces and condiments
  • Food – even crumbs!
  • Anything containing plastic, including: 
    • Wet wipes
    • Tampons, applicators and wrappers
    • Sanitary/menstrual pads and towels
    • Nappies
    • Condoms
    • Cotton buds
    • Contact lenses
    • Bandages and plasters
    • Razor blades
    • Dental floss

More than 3,000 homes are flooded in the UK every year because of FOG blockages and fatbergs; perhaps even more worryingly, the plastic products thrown into the drains contribute to the eight million tonnes of plastic dumped into the world’s oceans each year, making this an issue of global, not just individual, significance.

Tips and hacks for completing your Unblocktober goals

Trying to change your waste disposal habits in a month can seem like a daunting prospect, but the effort can be made a lot easier by following a few simple tips and tricks:

  • Fat and oil left in pans and trays after cooking should be collected in a container and left to cool and congeal, and then emptied into the bin, rather than poured down the sink
  • Plates and pans should be wiped down with kitchen roll or a plate scraper before they go into the sink or dishwasher, to ensure no food scraps or excess fat is left over
  • FOG that businesses collect can be sent off to an Environment Agency-licensed waste oil collector, who can help to recycle it for use in biodiesel production or incinerate it to produce electricity
  • Be aware of which products contain hidden plastic content, and make sure they go in the bin, not the drain. This is particularly important for wet wipes – even those that are marked as “flushable”
  • Look for eco-friendly alternatives to potentially polluting plastic products

By following this advice, you’ll be well on your way to completing your Unblocktober goals!

Products that can help your Unblocktober efforts

If you need a bit more help in making your Unblocktober as successful as possible, it might be worth investing in a few useful products that can help you to reduce your environmental impact and keep your drains free of blockages and pollution:

  • Sink strainers – these cost-effective drain protectors fit into the plughole of your kitchen sink, preventing crumbs and pieces of food from getting into the pipes. They can be easily removed, allowing you to dispose of the collected food in the bin
  • Food scrapers – these handy tools make it easy to scrape even the smallest bits of food off your kitchenware, preventing even the smallest crumbs from getting washed down the sink
  • “Fine to Flush” wet wipes – the vast majority of wet wipes are not biodegradable and cannot be flushed down the toilet, even if they are marketed as being “flushable”. However, those marked with a “Fine to Flush” badge have been tested extensively by Water UK and can be safely flushed, with example brands including Natracare. If you’re in any doubt, stay on the safe side and throw your wipes in the bin
  • Eco-friendly period care products – many period care products are manufactured as single-use plastics, which are highly damaging to the environment. However, brands such as TOTM, DivaCup, Honour Your Flow and DAME have all released reusable products that can help you avoid this habit
  • Bathroom bins – many people do not have bins in their bathrooms, which can contribute to items being wrongly flushed down the toilet for the sake of convenience. Purchasing a suitable bathroom bin makes it much easier to encourage good waste disposal habits

Most of these products are relatively cheap to purchase, and can last long enough to help you stick with your positive habits long after Unblocktober has ended!

How can I learn more?

For more advice and resources to help you change your waste disposal habits for good, simply sign up to take part in Unblocktober, and you’ll receive an official Unblocktober resource pack containing even more hints, advice and information about the campaign. It includes a progress tracker, allowing you to tick off each day of the month as you complete it.

We’re also expecting that some of the best Unblocktober tips and advice will come from our participants, which is why we’re encouraging supporters to use the hashtag #Unblocktober on social media to tell the world about how you’re getting on. By posting updates, pictures, video diaries and tips for other participants, you can do even more to make this groundbreaking campaign a success – and we’ll do our best to share your updates through our own networks, too!

Naomi
Written by Naomi