Alumnus wins Unblocktober Individual of the Year Award

Nuno Santos Silva (MSc Ergonomics and Human Factors, 2021) has won the Individual of the Year prize at the first ever Unblocktober Awards, a new awards scheme celebrating individuals that embody the spirit of the Unblocktober environmental awareness campaign.

Nuno conducted his final dissertation masters thesis on the prevention of fatberg outbreaks, something he feels very passionate about. During his work, he studied the interventions that could change people’s behaviour to ensure they deal with waste in a way that doesn’t contribute to fatbergs.

His aim was to use a behaviour-change approach to investigate the household sociotechnical system surrounding fatbergs. He wanted to discover the underlying reasons and motivations driving how households get rid of cooking oils to help develop interventions to prevent sewer networks being blocked by fatbergs.

Nuno Santos Silva said:

“This caught me by surprise, as somebody had put my name forward; however, I am humbly delighted. People who come across my study think there needs to be more visibility and a better approach to fatberg prevention.

“The most common behaviours displayed when getting rid of cooking oil were either putting it down the sink or toilet, or the less harmful methods of bottling it so it could be recycled or wiping it up then putting it in the bin. The study also found that there was a willingness to change behaviour if the opportunities for appropriate disposal were available, while other participants took an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ approach.

“All my research participants had an optional awareness session at the end of the study. During the session, I made them aware of the havoc created by fatbergs and why certain items are not flushable to protect their pipes from costly blockages.”

Jacob Larkin, spokesperson for Unblocktober, said:

“When selecting an exemplary candidate for our first ever Unblocktober Individual of the Year, we couldn’t ask for a better choice than Nuno. His work to understand how people behave when disposing of cooking oil aligns directly with what we are trying to achieve with Unblocktober.

“The Unblocktober Awards are designed to recognise business and individuals with a genuine passion for protecting our sewers and seas. If we are going to make a difference in changing habits for the better, it will be thanks to individuals like Nuno and the values he has demonstrated through this groundbreaking project.”

Led by Lanes Group and currently in its fourth year, Unblocktober is the first global awareness campaign that challenges participants to change their drainage habits for 31 days to help protect the environment. The Unblocktober Awards are a new initiative for 2022, celebrating the achievements of those who go the extra mile to exemplify the spirit of Unblocktober, or raise awareness of the campaign and its goals.

Commenting on the campaign, Nuno said:

“Unblocktober is educating people to make changes to their bad habits evolved from lack of awareness when it comes to disposing of pollutants in our seas and sewers. By working together, we can prevent fatberg outbreaks, recover valuable resources and eradicate pollution.”