Avoid a clog with proper disposal of holiday FOG
By AMWUA Staff
Prepping for the holiday season always tends to be a bit more challenging with our elaborate menus and long to-do lists as we prepare to host, cook, and eat. This means that the kitchen is a busy place. No matter what your holiday menu might entail, it’s important to be sewer savvy so that your stretchy pants can be reserved for relaxing and not plunging.
As you prepare your family feast and during the extensive clean-up that follows, keep the grease from going down your drain. That’s no grease at all! This includes the cooking oil that may be used to deep-fry the turkey and any food remnants that contain fat, oil, and grease (known as FOG), including gravy, buttery potatoes, or baked goods like leftover pumpkin pie. FOG can cause sewer damage and backups, which you won’t want to deal with over the holiday season.
Water that goes down the kitchen drain doesn’t disappear. It travels through the sewer system to the wastewater treatment plant to be processed and cleaned. It is then reused for purposes such as groundwater recharge and landscape irrigation or released back into nature to join the water cycle. Since the sewers get water from thousands of kitchens, the smallest amount of grease and oil can build up and clog a pipe as the fats and grease cling to the inside of your city’s sewer pipes, causing unnecessary damage. Those greasy contaminants can also make wastewater treatment and processing far more challenging than it has to be.
To avoid clogs and back-ups to ensure your neighborhood keeps things moving, here are a few ways to keep your plumbing working throughout the holidays and save your city time and money while keeping FOG at bay:
- Pour cooking oils and grease into a small container with absorbent material, such as a paper towel or coffee grounds, and dispose of it in the trash or recycle it at a grease disposal or environmental recycling site that may be available in your city. Please do not pour liquids directly into your trash!
- Scrape food from dishes into the trash (not the garbage disposal) and wipe down greasy plates, pots and pans with a paper towel before washing.
- Filter and reuse large amounts of deep-frying oil.
- Refrigerate and reuse fat for cooking.
- Prevent food particles from entering your sewer by covering your kitchen sink drain with a strainer.
- Limit your use of garbage disposals because they only shred solids and do not prevent grease from building up again.
- And remember that hot water from your tap or dishwasher might appear to melt the grease and push it further down the drain, but it will solidify again once it cools. This will cause a build-up in the main sewer system ad can affect neighboring sewer lines.
In addition to time spent in the kitchen, we know that with a house full of company, the bathroom can also see an increase in traffic flow, so it’s important to ensure your guests are sewer savvy by letting them know that what you flush matters. It’s important to remind them that the toilet is not a trash can; items such as wipes (even if they say disposable), paper towels, facial tissue, diapers, feminine hygiene products, cotton swabs, cotton balls, band-aids, and dental floss should never be flushed. They do not break down in the same fashion as toilet paper, cause clogs, and get tangled with everything else fighting to get through the pipes causing back-ups. So ensure they understand that human waste and toilet paper are the only acceptable items to be flushed.
By not putting a strain on all your drains and pipes, you can avoid an unplanned visit from your plumber, not just during the holidays but year-round. Clogged pipes and sewer back-ups are never a good surprise; they can significantly damage your home, neighborhood, and the environment. Limiting contaminants and unwanted items from entering our pipes ensures a clean and properly functioning sewer system, which benefits us all.
Make sure to visit your local conservation webpage to find out more tips and available cooking oil recycling programs and disposal drop-offs available to you.
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For over 50 years, the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association has worked to protect our member cities’ ability to provide their communities with assured, safe, and sustainable water supplies. For more information, visit www.amwua.org.