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Fats that blocked drains are now used as fuel

WHEN Suraiya Hussain clears away the pots after cooking, there is one extra task she does not forget.

She pours the oil she has used into a container, puts on the lid and keeps it. The residue from the many meals she prepares is then collected to be taken away and turned into fuel.

Suraiya, who lives in Bradford Moor, is among residents in 250 homes in the district who takes part in an innovative Fats to Fuel scheme that sees their used fat being recycled and turned into bio diesel.

The scheme, run by Yorkshire Water, began after a growing number of blockages in the sewers serving the BD3 area. In one three-year period they totalled 85.

Five years ago, while carrying out a £2.8 million upgrading programme, YW found that while there had been some degradation, one of the main issues was fat, oil and grease (FOG) entering the sewer network.

Says network protection technician Duncan Woodhead, who masterminded the scheme: “At this time electricity prices were sky high and there were discussions about the risk of supply. I then came across a company which produced electricity from used cooking oil.”

He then met with Rashid Ahmed, the manager of Karmand Community Centre in Barkerend Road, and suggested that Yorkshire Water and Karmand work together to tackle the issue.

“Rashid introduced me to Nasa Hussain at the community centre, who was particularly supportive,” he explains. “We then had meetings with the company I had read about.

“They were dubious about the likely success of the idea of residential collections, but agreed to supply us with a collection tank where we could decant the oil from our five-litre tubs.”

The quality of the oil we collected was not always of the standard the firm could use, so another company, Argent, was found, which uses used cooking oil for bio diesel.

They began with 85 homes, but not everyone was convinced the scheme would work.

“Some thought we wouldn’t see the tubs- called’ fat vats’ – again.,” says Duncan. “We started collecting on a weekly basis to ensure that we had a presence in the area and could answer any questions that came up. We now collect on a four-weekly basis and every time we receive requests to call at other houses.

“If the houses are not on our rounds the householders sometimes bring the oil to us.”

Many people do not realise that even though cooking oil is liquid when its bought, stored and used, when the oil enters the sewer the temperature is much lower, so the fat tends to solidify, slowing the flow of the sewer. Any FOG will collect around this point, causing a larger build up. Running hot water down the drain only moves the problem further down.

“People tend to think of sewers as massive pipes, but the vast majority are just a few inches in diameter.” Says Duncan,

As well as support from Yorkshire Water, external funding has enabled the scheme to expand. Collections are now made from 250 homes. Last year the University of Bradford signed up.

It is hoped that eventually local people will be employed to carry out collections.

Resident and scheme member Maria Hussain, of Amberley Street, says: “It is fantastic. It stops people pouring oil down the drain, finds another purpose for a used item and will save millions on drain cleaning.”

Rehana Khan, also of Amberley Street said” The scheme is good for Bradford 3. It’s good to stop the oil from going down the sink. I didn’t think it would work, but now everyone I know around here supports it. My brother lives in BD6 and he wants a tub.”

For Yorkshire Water, which has so far invested £20,000 in the scheme, the benefits are clear – over the past 18 months there has only been one jetting job to clear blocked drains.

Duncan Woodhead, Yorkshire Water’s Network Protection Technician, said “The success of this scheme is down to the overwhelming support and enthusiasm from people living in the area. They have done a lot of the work by spreading the word and now we get people coming up to us on every collection asking for fat vats.”

Adds Nasa: “The most important thing for me is education. People in this area are now educating relatives and friends in other areas of the country. There has been a change in hearts and minds of people living in my area. Residents now realise the problems that can be caused.”

“We are now thinking about the environment and showing that we have a pride in where we live and what we do. We have built a great working relationship with Yorkshire Water.”

He adds: “Bradford 3 has 6,600 houses so we have a lot to do.”

Daniel Rowe, Yorkshire Water’s trade effluent and network protection team leader says: “Every litre of cooking oil that is collected is one less into the sewer network and it means less cleaning of the sewer and less internal floods. This also means less disruption of local areas due to traffic management and closed roads, as well as loss of business.”

As well as support from Yorkshire Water, external funding from the charitable trust Power to Change has enabled the scheme to expand. Last year the University of Bradford signed up.

Power to Change spokesman Sara Buchanan says: “Fats to Fuels is a fantastic, community-led initiative, which will help environmental, health and community needs across the local area. “Our support for this early-stage community business is helping Karmand double its waste-oil collection network from 250 to 500 households. It will also be able to manage a research partnership with Bradford University, and develop a viable business case for replicating this exciting community business idea.”

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