Supermarkets come together to fight the festive fat

Christmas is coming and the goose is getting fat. But Sainsbury's and Waitrose are keen for that fat to cause less pain in the drains this year with the launch of a nationwide initiative to reduce sewer blockages and increase recycling of festive feast generates.

The rival supermarkets have set aside their differences this festive season to support a new behaviour change initative in partnership with 12 water companies across the country. Customers pre-ordering a turkey from selected stores will receive free gadgets to help collect the fat, oil and grease (FOG) from their Christmas roast.

More than 200,000 re-usable plastic ‘EkoFunnels’ and cardboard ‘Fat Traps’ will be available at participating Waitrose stores and sent out with Sainsbury’s online deliveries as part of this nationwide campaign overseen by Business In The Community (BITC).

The traps and funnels can be used to collect waste FOGs for recycling or disposal via the bin, with BITC primarily hoping to raise awareness of this issue and prevent FOG-related sewer blockages.

Behaviour change

Sainsbury’s head of sustainability Paul Crewe said: “We’re proud to be distributing over 130,000 fat traps and funnels nationwide this year. As well as keeping Britain’s waste water network flowing, the cooking oil and fat captured from your roast this Christmas could be turned into bio-fuel to power vehicles.”

Waitrose’s head of sustainability and ethical sourcing Quentin Clark added: “Fat in the sewers is a big problem, particularly at this time of year. Here at Waitrose, we are committed to supporting local communities and helping to reduce this problem across the country. By encouraging our customers to use our free fat-traps, we can dramatically cut the percentage of damage caused to drains by fat, oil and grease.”

Pouring FOGs down the sink can result in the liquids hardening as they cool, creating blockages. As an example, 2,635 FOG-related sewer blockages occurred in the Yorkshire region last year, often leading to flooding inside homes and businesses. The FOGs are expensive to clear from the water network – money that could be saved on customers’ bills.

“The effects of a blocked drain or sewer on people’s homes can be horrendous,” said Sarah Mukherjee, director of environment for Water UK. “But in most cases, sewer blockages are avoidable just by being careful about what we put down the sink or the loo.” 

Each Fat Trap and EkoFunnel will include specific instructions for customers; explaining how the devises should be used and advising customers to take the collected FOG to household waste recycling centres.

Sustainable future

BITC trialled this initiative with customers in London last year before helping to spread it to other parts of the country this Christmas. The organisation’s head of marketplace sustainability Gudrun Cartwright said: “This initiative clearly shows how business collaboration can deliver practical results that are good for business and help us all to live more sustainably while create wider value for society.

“This is a great example of how businesses can work together to drive positive change towards a sustainable and prosperous future for themselves and the communities they serve.”

The water companies involved in this initiative are: Anglian Water, Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water, Northern Ireland Water, Northumbrian Water, Scottish Water, Severn Trent Water, Southern Water, South West Water, Thames Water, United Utilities, Wessex Water and Yorkshire Water.

Free Fat Traps will be available at participating Waitrose stores, while Sainsbury’s will be sending out 130,000 Fat Traps and EkoFunnels with online deliveries. A member of one of the participating water companies told edie that this initiative is’ just the start’ of a collaborative effort between the water industry and major retailers to drive behaviour change for a more sustainable future.

Luke Nicholls

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