Alison Browne, a lecturer in human geography at the University of Manchester, and a group of sustainability experts at Manchester and the University of Sheffield recently produced a report suggesting that a public education programme would by itself not be enough to solve the problem. “Around three-quarters of the fats, oils and greases in sewers comes from domestic sources, making household disposal a key priority for change,” they concluded in a summary of their findings. “[But] changing people’s broader behaviour related to food waste and disposal of fatty products is not going to be easy, and we need to look beyond the plughole.” Consumers are unlikely to change their behaviour without practical encouragement. This could be an area where the exigencies of modern life trump environmental awareness.
Browne highlights the success of Yorkshire Water’s “fats to fuel” project in Bradford, where residents in sewer blockage hotspots are encouraged to collect fats for weekly collection, as an example of domestic consumers being kickstarted into action but then taking a degree of ownership of the scheme once they realise the process is relatively straightfoward and the benefits in terms of the environment and energy generation clear. She also points to some supermarkets following Spain’s example by trialling cooking oil collection banks, though says there is no evidence yet on their effectiveness.