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6th November 2008

A pre-Christmas appeal with a difference is going out to people in Caithness - recycle your cooking fats, oils and greases.

The appeal has been prompted by the discovery of large amounts of illegally-dumped fat in the county's sewer system and waste water treatment works, in particular Thurso and Castletown. The solidified fat has been impairing the ability of the treatment works, potentially putting the local environment at risk of pollution.

Householders and businesses in the Far North have an advantage over other Highland communities as they have an environmentally-friendly way to dispose of their waste cooking oils right on their doorstep. There are recycling banks at Wick, Thurso and Seater. The oil is collected by local firm Manson Waste Disposal who convert it into bio-diesel fuel for resale.

Caithness Councillor Supports Appeal
Landward Caithness councillor Willie Mackay who uses a car powered by locally produced bio-diesel said: "All we ask is a little time and consideration from our householders to put their used cooking oil whether it be out of the chip pan or a deep fat fryer into a plastic container, then take it along to any of the Caithness recycling centres. The oil collected is converted locally into a valuable source of fuel which I can thoroughly recommend as an alternative to petrol and diesel."

Alan Miller, Scottish Water's team manager for Caithness, said: "To most of us what goes down the plughole or drain is out of sight out of mind but fats, oils and food leftovers can cause blockages, leading to sewage backing up into people's homes or onto pavements. We've discovered serious amounts of fat in the Traill Street and Princess Street areas of Thurso and we've been digging out huge chunks at our waste water pumping station at the harbour. Our treatment works at Castletown has also been struggling to cope with the amount of grease being received. We are keeping on top of the situation but it's a serious drain on our resources."


Businesses such as B&Bs and hotels are advised to have proper catering fat traps installed. If those responsible for the blockages are traced, they could end up having to pay the cost of the clean up effort, which could run into tens of thousands of pounds.

Householders can also mix their used cooking fats with seeds and cereal to make a cake for garden birds. Anyone who wants to know more can call Scottish Water on 0845 601 8855 or visit the website:

* Fat is responsible for 55% of all sewer blockages. Many of these result in pollution or flooding.
* Fats, oils and greases are a major cause of operational problems for Scottish Water. Across the UK the problem is estimated to cost the water industry 15million a year.
* The largest source of fat in sewers is from businesses such as catering establishments.
* The perception is that the problem is getting worse.
* Fat blockages cause pollution, flooding, public health hazards and have major clean up costs.
* Cleaning a fat clogged pumping station can cost as much as 20,000.
* Fat in sewage creates biological foam which impairs the ability of modern treatment works.
* Saturated fat causes the most problems. This is animal fat which goes hard when it cools.
* Mono-unsaturated fats such as olive oil and rapeseed solidify when refrigerated so can caused problems in sewers in cold weather.
* Vegetable oils are non-soluble in water and contribute to the build up of fat in sewers.
* In many other countries, commercial properties are legally obliged to fit a fat trap.

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