Don't Put These Things Down the Sink During the Holidays

©. Elena Shashkina

Prevent drain blockages and environmental damage by taking care with what you put down the sink.

Last October, a UK wastewater and drainage solutions company created a campaign, Unblocktober, to raise public awareness about reducing food waste and non-biodegradable materials being sent down the drains.

The initiative focused on getting people to stop putting foods, fats, oils and grease (FOG) down the sink, as well as keeping non-flushable things – which is basically anything besides toilet paper and the stuff that comes from a human – out of the toilet. The goal? To prevent sewer blockages and environmental damage to waterways.

Now they are encouraging Americans to do the same; and while good wastewater habits are important year round, the holidays are an especially good time to pay attention.

"Extra efforts are essential around Thanksgiving, as this is the day when Americans eat more than on any other day of the year," notes a statement from the campaign. "With families gathering to prepare roasted turkeys, creamy mashed potatoes, stuffing, thick sauces and soups, it is easy for oily food waste to end up being washed down the sink by accident."

“This year, we’d like to encourage Americans to consider how important their sewers and waterways are in keeping up that quality of life," says Michelle Ringland from Unblocktober, "and to make a real effort to help protect them."

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, almost half of all sewer blockages in the U.S. are caused by grease becoming solid in the pipes to create blockages. FOG also likes to band together with flushed things, like wet wipes, to create the horrifying phenomenon of fatbergs – congealed masses of non-biodegradable solid matter and FOG – which are not only gross, but cause sewer overflows and domestic flooding.

Unblocktober has a list of things not to rinse down the sink, and we have added a few more:

  • Cooking oil or shortening (pre or post-cooking)
  • Butter or margarine
  • Lard and grease
  • Meat scraps
  • Dairy products (milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, heavy whipping cream, ice cream, cheese sauces, etc)
  • Sauces and condiments
  • All food, even crumbs!
  • Especially pasta, flour, rice (because they continue to swell in the pipes)
  • Coffee grounds (among the most common causes of kitchen sink drain clogs)
  • Produce stickers (generally made of plastic)

Basically, scrape the plates clean, into the trash or compost, before putting them in the sink or dishwasher. Smaller portions on the plate can lead to less food waste, even if a less heaping plate does defy the feast modus operandi.

“As you and your family tuck into your Thanksgiving turkeys on November 28th, remember to channel a bit of that Unblocktober spirit and make sure that any waste is disposed of responsibly. Only by working together can we succeed in saving our sewers and seas!” says Ringland.

Giving thanks, one averted fatberg at a time.