Launch Slideshow

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Fun With Fats

Fun With Fats

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    Grease Management Supervisor James Jones (left) and Water Quality Associate II Bo Mathews dispensed magnets and pencils during a public workshop in July on how greasy food residues cause backups and overflows. Photo: Gwinnett County Department of Water Resources

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    Gwinnett County's public-awareness campaign centers around three characters: the Fats Fiend, the Oil Offender, and the Grease Goblin. Images: Jordan, Jones & Goulding

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    Launched last summer, wwwunclogthefog.com includes educational brochures, frequently asked questions, videos, childrens' activities, and helpful links. Image: Gwinnett County Department of Water Resources

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    The Unclog the FOG Web site includes puzzles that test how well students have internalized what the Web site teaches. Image: Gwinnett County Department of Water Resources

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    Many people believe that garbage disposals can handle fats, oils, and greases, but all they really do is chop up the problem and move it downstream. Images: Jordan, Jones & Goulding

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    In addition to a communications program that integrates the Internet with in-person educational presentations, restaurant grease trap inspections minimize greasy buildup on sewer lines. Photo: Gwinnett County Department of Water Resources

JJG didn't find any videos already existing in the public domain, so the firm created animations that show how lipids accumulation leads to backups. One shows the cross-section of a pipe as gunk builds up on the interior walls; another begins with someone pouring bacon grease down the drain before moving on to a resulting sewage backup in the bathroom and a nearby stream.

Water resources employees also wanted direct interaction with the community through workshops and speaking opportunities, so they asked that a presentation be developed for each of the program's three target audiences: students, the general public, and restaurants/businesses. The budget was expanded to create the animations and develop the presentations.

The branded characters are used only in material for school students and the general public, while information targeted to restaurants and other regulated businesses is straightforward and succinct. The goal is to keep the message consistent while acknowledging the different informational needs of each audience. “It's much easier to speak to the public now,” says Grease Management Supervisor James Jones. “I have documents and brochures to hand out that help explain the problem and what we as a community can do to solve it.”

The program has piqued the curiosity of agencies around the country, including a regional water planning group in nearby Atlanta and a utility in Santa Maria, Calif., that asked how to incorporate “Unclog the FOG” into its prevention program.

Meanwhile, the department's efforts to bring the message into schools came to fruition in January when employees were invited to participate in an elementary school science fair. In addition to program materials, field staff brought along service trucks used to maintain the collection system to give students an up-close look at what it takes to remove buildup.

Teaching the public how to properly dispose of kitchen waste doesn't have to be part of a larger program like industrial pretreatment. Instead, it can be front and center of a strategic initiative that educates the community while protecting their valuable infrastructure assets.

— Davis (marci.davis@jjg.com) is a senior strategic communications consultant for Jordan, Jones & Goulding of Norcross, Ga.

Web Extra

For a link to Gwinnett County's FOG ordinance, click here.