Feed the birds - but not with cooking fats

Solidified fat in the sewer.
Solidified fat in the sewer.

Scottish Water is encouraging customers to keep the water cycle going and help garden birds by disposing of cooking fats, oils and grease responsibly during the festive season and beyond.

As families across Scotland prepare for Christmas dinner and festive fry-ups, Scottish Water is reminding them that over time, cooking fats, oils and grease poured down the sink or drain can build up and cause blockages in drains and sewer pipes that prevent the waste water draining away properly causing extremely unpleasant internal sewage flooding or environmental pollution.

Scottish Water says it is important that families dispose of cooking fats, oils and grease responsibly by leaving them to cool and placing them in a suitable container (like an empty milk carton). Then placing the container in the bin or recycle if possible.

Animal fats and meat juices can also harm our feathered friends and therefore such kitchen scraps should not be used to feed winter birds.

Chris Bailey, Advisory Manager for RSPB Scotland, said: “Feeding garden birds is a popular activity in Scotland as well as a lifeline for many species during winter when natural sources of food are in short supply. However, certain types of food are very bad for birds and cooking fat is one of them.

“The problem comes when cooking fat mixes with meat juices and sets; the consistency is prone to smearing which can damage birds’ feathers at a time they need them in a good condition to stay warm.

“The mixture will also go off quickly providing a breeding ground for diseases. Don’t be put off from feeding our feathered friends though - there are plenty of safe options including bird cake and seed mixes or kitchen scraps like cooked potato, dried fruit and mild grated cheese.”

Peter Farrer, Scottish Water’s Chief Operating Officer, added: “While it is important that our customers do not pour fats, oils and grease down the kitchen sink or drain, it is also vital that they dispose of such residue responsibly, rather than leaving it out for winter birds.

“There is a misconception that sewers are vast, cavernous tunnels but in truth the majority are very narrow pipes, of no more than a few inches in diameter.

“It is very easy for these narrow pipelines to become blocked, causing waste water to back up and spill. Reducing blockages would not only protect customers from internal flooding or environmental pollution – it would also help Scottish Water continue to keep average customer charges low in Great Britain and free up funds for investment.”

Nationally, Scottish Water spends £7million a year responding to over 40,000 calls about blockages in the sewer network, and 80% are caused by household waste that should go in the bin.