Fatberg

A ‘fatberg’ in the sewers? What a waste

For much of history, the fat found in a giant ball clogging London sewers would have been put to a surprising array of uses

The fatberg – a 15-tonne lump of fat and other debris – coagulated inside a London sewer. Photograph: AP

A colossal “fatberg” of wet-wipes, sanitary products and food fat clogging a Kingston sewer threatened to send raw sewage spurting into London streets and homes in late July. Looking like some kind of B-movie monster, this 15-tonne abomination reminds us that waste is getting harder to keep underground.

But for most of history, a fatberg would have been a valuable commodity. Rather than shooting high-powered water-jets at the monster, the green solution would have been to make it into tallow candles – the chief source of light for most people before gas or electricity. Hence the job of “grease-dealer” – a person who made their living by collecting the grease of domestic kitchens, scraping it into a tub, and presently re-selling it. Once, you made energy from anything you could – including, sometimes, your pets: “My old dog Quon was killed … and baked for his grease, of which he yielded 11 pounds,” wrote a Dorset farmer in 1698.

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6 responses to this post.

  1. There was a time when traders paid for waste from the council, before it was dumped in landfill.

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  2. That is really gross I so wish people were shown what their waste ends up doing.

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  3. Kevin Macleod used fatbergs to make biodiesel to power a lamp in his show Man Made Home. http://www.channel4.com/programmes/kevin-mcclouds-man-made-home/episode-guide

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