Unblocktober aims to unclog UK drains for a cleaner and healthier ocean

18 October 2023 by Acre
blog author

​As our ocean continues to be pumped full of sewage and other pollutants, threatening human health and marine life, behaviour change can be steered towards a more positive outcome.

Unblocktober (Oct 1-31st) is the world’s first month-long national campaign to raise awareness of making small daily changes for a much bigger impact on the planet.

It was launched in 2019 when more than 4,500 Britons changed their habits in the bathroom and kitchen (at home and in the workplace) to improve the health of UK drains, sewers, waterways and the sea.

Last year more than 66,000 people got involved in the mission and the number is expected to increase this year as more people want to mitigate the damage their negative actions can cause.

How much plastic is flushed down our toilets/drains?

Currently 11 million tonnes of plastic are dumped in the ocean every year and 48 per cent of the British public have flushed wet wipes down the toilet, along with 1.8 billion cotton buds, according to research.

The problem is exacerbated by fats, oils and grease (FOG) which are poured straight down the drains by 48 per cent of the nation. This, combined with the wet wipes, creates a hazardous concoction commonly known as a ‘fatberg’.

Unblocktober urges people to be more mindful and stop flushing/pouring polluting items down the toilet/drains. Offending items vary from cotton buds and dental floss to contact lenses, oil and even food crumbs which cause blockages and damage the environment.

Who is backing this initiative?

There are several organisations supporting Unblocktober, to drive the message further and clarify the facts.

A spokesperson for The Rivers Trust, said: “There is so much confusing information out there about what is flushable and what isn’t.

“Unblocktober is a great opportunity for us to help share more information about what we can and can’t flush and how non-flushable items, such as wet wipes and sanitary towels, are polluting our rivers and seas.”

Matthew Izzard, Chairman of UKSTT (United Kingdom Society of Trenchless Technology), said: “Many of our members are at the forefront of efforts to counter the damage caused by fats, oils and grease and products like wipes that get into our sewer network.

“Only by working together can we change our behaviours and prevent the pollution of our precious waterways and oceans.”

Philip Soden, Managing Director ECAS (Environmental Compliance and Services), said: “Through working with water companies – and spending time with food service establishments – we know first-hand the damage that can be caused when fats, oils and grease and food waste is discharged into the sewer network.

“It leads to all sorts of issues for food businesses, water companies, communities and the environment. From bad smells to pollution in rivers and seas.

“We believe that education – and trapping this waste at source – is the key to unlocking the problem. And that’s why we’re delighted to be championing the Unblocktober campaign.”

A spokesperson for Acre said: “As we strive for a net zero future, refraining from clogging our drains will help businesses achieve their goal and strengthen sustainable development.

“This is because good drainage helps improve water quality and buildings will be able to conserve more energy due to enforced efficiency, along with smoother running operations.

“We welcome campaigns like Unblocktober to remind us all that individual impact is key and can be scaled across the country with everyone collaborating to reach the same goal. The ripple effect of people making small but effective changes should never be underestimated.”

For more information on how you can get involved, go to Unblocktober | A month to Save Our Sewers and Seas.