More than 150 guests from water utilities, technology and grease management providers, academia and the hospitality sector, joined the summit in Brighton, UK, to reconnect with peers, share knowledge and ideas and gain insights from industry leaders into keeping wastewater networks fatberg-free.
The summit was opened by guest speakers Ian McAulay, chief executive of utility Southern Water, who set the scene by telling delegates there are 300,000 sewer blockages in the UK annually, and Philip Dunne MP, chair of the UK Parliament Environmental Audit Committee, who is pursuing legislative changes to the management of wastewater and sewer discharges to prevent river pollution.
Addressing the audience, Dunne said: “There is a huge environmental cost from an issue that is largely unknown and unseen by the public. The way you are using technology and working to change habits and behaviours is so important.”
Opening speeches were followed by interactive panel discussions, which explored FOG-related challenges across Europe’s wastewater networks, proactive mitigation taken by utilities and local authorities, including customer engagement and commercial kitchen education, university-led research into fatbergs and their contents and the latest technical solutions and best practice guidance.
The value of FOG as a resource, and how it can fit into the circular economy, was a major focus, with speakers highlighting innovative initiatives already in place while agreeing there were huge untapped opportunities to be explored.
Speaking on the resource recovery panel, Gaynor Hartnell, chief executive, Renewable Transport Fuel Association, said: “FOG is incredibly valuable as a renewable transport fuel feedstock. There are gaps to be joined up but there can be so many potential winners.”
Reinforcing the message, event co-host Stephen Williams, network protection officer, Southern Water, said: “We need to stop seeing FOG as waste and see a resource which can be part of the circular economy, as a biofuel and energy resource. To push that we must engage across our industry but also more widely. We need to change regulation and legislation and, importantly, change mindsets.”
SwiftComply CEO Mick O’Dwyer said: “This has been a journey of over four years that we started in Amsterdam, we had a goal of just creating a forum to talk about FOG. We wanted to connect some dots between the industry and the stakeholders. It has really evolved from a small gathering in 2018, to now over 150 in Brighton which is fantastic. We’re seeing those dots being connected.”
Closing the 3rd European FOG Summit, Laura Su, UK business director, SwiftComply, said: “To have 150 experts from 10 countries in the room to discuss FOG is such an achievement. While we know there isn’t a single solution when it comes to FOG management, the summit facilitated valuable conversations and collaborations.
“We set out to make an impact and spark discussions that go beyond business as usual, and we hope we’ve done that. We can’t wait to welcome you back again in 2022!”