P&J Column 10.5.18

Flushed with the awful consequences of waste disposal


Hector Schlenk, Senior Research Fellow at the Bogton Institute for Public Engagement with Science

As a scientist, people are forever asking me questions, and this week they have mostly been asking me about plastics, to which I reply that the Plastics are the most popular girls at North Shore High, and the antagonists in the coming–of-age classic of 90’s teen cinema, ‘Mean Girls’. Until I realise that we’re not talking about Lyndsey Lohan movies and that the depth of my knowledge of her ouvre is making everyone uncomfortable.

Instead, we’re concerned with the possible harmful effects of tiny microplastics, entering the natural world via our bathroom drains. However, it falls to me to highlight the dangers of the very opposite end of the size scale, in particular the issue of ‘Fatbergs’. Despite the name, a Fatberg is not a new item on the McDonalds menu, but an object formed when people flush things down their toilets which should not be so disposed of. Eventually, the resultant matter congeals into a large, useless, unwelcome mass which proves impossible to remove, and sits there obstinately, getting in the way. Think of it, if you like, as a more animated version of Donald Trump.

Despite the name, scientific studies have now shown only 0.5% of a fatberg is actually composed of fat, 7% formed from cotton buds and plastic wrappers, and the remainder, incredibly, composed entirely of wet wipes. These innocuous items are in fact a menace which may require to be banned to prevent the rise of an ecological disaster, and indeed many other things which might bob to the surface once all the sewers are clogged.  Only last September a monstrous fatberg was discovered blocking a London sewer in Whitechapel; at 250 metres long and weighing 130 tonnes, it took 9 weeks to remove. One can only imagine the consequences if such a thing were to be discovered beneath the streets of Aberdeen; using the speed of pothole repair as a guide, removal of such a fatberg here would take longer than the pedestrianisation of Broad Street.

So important is this issue, I felt the need to give a public lecture on it, and so took myself to Aberdeen’s equivalent of Speaker’s Corner, the cobbled bittie outside Markies. After chasing off a Peruvian Pan Pipe Band and a brace of broadband switching enthusiasts, I hefted my megaphone and proceeded to announce my lecture on the “How we must act now to eliminate Fatbergs’. It was not until after sizeable group of young ladies had shouted me down and angrily relieved me of my loudhailer that I realised I had been misheard.


Cava Kenny Cordiner, the sports pundit who is always au naturel

Well, I guess we has just seen the curtain slammed shut on another football season.  I was at Pittodrie on Tuesday night to watch the Dandies stick Scotland’s newest club The Rangers in a do-or-glory, death-or-die second place decider.  Sadly none of them fancied taking the bull by the scruff of the neck and they drew 1-1.  This means the Dons can finish in 2nd, 3rd or 4th depending on results this weekend.  If we end up 4th then we need to cross our eyes & close our fingers that Motherwell don’t win the cup or we’ll miss out on Europe.  I hope it doesn’t come to that because there’s nothing worse than having someone else controlling your density.

Whenever the season ends I always look to other sports to fill the talcum that the football has left, and last week I was watching the snooker.  It was a tense affair, and the crowds in the Cruciate Theatre was so quiet you could hear a pandrop.  This year the 2 finalists was both in their 40s, so it’s great to see that age is no barrier to waddling round a table stroking your arm back and forth a few times.  I was rooting for the Wizard of Wishy Washy, John Hurricane Higgins, but he was beaten by the Welshman, Mark JPR Williams.

The boy Williams said if he won he’d do his final press conference in the nuddy, and he was true to his word!  Fair play to the lad, Snooker is all about getting your balls into the pockets, which is no mean feet if you haven’t got no breeks on.

See the Flying Pigs Live in ‘Now That’s What I Call Methlick’ at HMT Aberdeen June 26th-30th 2018