European FOG Summit 2019
Our first ever European FOG summit has come and gone, I wanted to take a second to look back and reflect on some of the insights and shared ideas from the day. We were extremely fortunate to be able to bring together some of the leading experts in FOG from across North America and Europe. They all graced the stage and shared their experiences with FOG to shed new light on some of the major challenges which cities across Europe are dealing with.
As I look back on the summit, I thought it would be useful to explain the goals of the summit, why we decided to host and some of the main insights that we took from the day.
Why we hosted the FOG Summit?
The goal was to bring together FOG innovators and European wastewater professional for an immersive day of learning and collaboration centered on innovative ways to tackle fatbergs through better FOG management.
As sewer networks come under increasing pressure from growing populations and the number of food service establishments continues to grow, new ways of managing FOG must be developed to safeguard the long-term sustainability of our urban communities.
We specifically looked to recruit speakers from around the world to give a truly global view of FOG. We’re all about sharing the wins, losses, and missteps along the way to give so that wastewater professionals and the public can learn how to manage fog sustainable in the long term.
We wanted to emphasize “innovation through collaboration” not only in the fact that we hosting the first European FOG summit but also with the venue itself. Just last year we partnered with Waternet to launch our Vetstrijder (fat fighter) campaign in Amsterdam where we reached out to food service entrepreneurs and looked to raise awareness about the growing fatberg threat in the city.
We believe that outreach and continuous education is the key to changing how people think about and deal with FOG.
When selecting potential speakers to approach we wanted to make sure that we provided a holistic view of the FOG ecosystem throughout the day. That meant approaching speakers who operate throughout the FOG lifecycle including FOG managers, industry consultants, public water and the sewage industry, the hospitality and academia among others. We also wanted to make sure that we were featuring people who were looking to push the boundaries with the FOG efforts in new and interesting ways.
Another important factor that affected our choice was geography. We wanted to give a truly global view of the FOG scene and worked to recruit speakers from different areas who would be able to provide a unique view of FOG management in their city/region.
I thought we were alone in our fight against fatbergs until I met so many people from all over the world doing exactly the same thing as we do. FOG is a global issue, and I’d like to see an improvement on legislation and standards across the industry” Stephen Edwards, Network Protection and Enforcement officer at Southern Water
Continuous outreach & education
It is clear from a great day of insight and analysis that continuous education of businesses and the wider community is key to stopping the problem at source. Wastewater professionals need to change the way they think about FOG management and focus on proactively engaging each stakeholder throughout the FOG ecosystem. Many of our speakers were able to provide really encouraging examples of the impact they have seen from campaigns designed the raise the public awareness of the effects of FOG and how fatbergs can be prevented.
We need to celebrate our successes a little bit more because the wastewater professionals are doing great things, we just don’t know what everybody’s doing. An event like the European FOG Summit gives us an opportunity to see what our colleagues are doing. We need to celebrate successes because I know they’re happening.” Barry Orr, Inspector at City of London
The only long term solution to FOG is to ensure that the communities collectively manage their FOG at the source. The time and cost which cities have to invest in fatberg cleanups are enormous. Europe is still a long way behind the USA in terms of awareness and regulation which highlights the importance of summits like this.
“We have to talk to the people, we have to train people, and we have to equip people to ensure that FOG is not emitted in the first place” Oliver Loebel, Secretary-General at Eureau
The fatberg threat
Thames Water company spends upwards of £1million a month clearing fatbergs and blockages in the Greater London area alone. Thames Water deals with over 55,000 fatbergs and blockages a year. Perhaps the most famous of these was the Whitechapel Fatberg which weighed the same as 11 double-decker buses and took an eight-man crew three weeks to clear.
Even more alarming is the health hazards which Fatbergs present to residents. Fatberg has been found to contain potentially infectious bacteria including listeria, campylobacter, and E-coli. These strains were found to survive even when treated with drugs.
The damage to the environment is no less stark, as oils hit the water, they form a film which reduces the amount of oxygen in the water, which aquatic life needs to extract to live. As such this pollution leads to continuous maintenance and cleanup which extremely costly and time-consuming.
The future of FOG
We are delighted to have been able to bring together so many people who are committed to changing the way we think about FOG and its management across Europe. We have received fantastic feedback from attendees about the insights they learned from the discussions throughout the day. It is clear that if we want to safeguard our urban communities and environment in the long term, we need to put FOG management higher up the agenda today and tomorrow.
In the nearby future, I want to see FOG higher on the agenda for the authorities and that we work more together to solve the fatberg problem.” Nienke de Wilde, Lead Inspection and Enforcement at DCMR
There’s no one single solution for an underestimated problem that impacts the entire society. That’s why we need to continuously collaborate, educate and communicate.
Our ambition doesn’t end here, we want to be at the forefront of the global movement toward sustainable FOG management and are already planning next years event. Please get in touch if you would like to be the first to hear about dates, speakers and venue.