Unvarnished waste is as much a part of Thanksgiving as turkey and disappointing your relatives.
Consider: in 1965, an 18-year-old Arlo Guthrie (the legendary folk singer and activist) and a companion threw a load of Thanksgiving trash down a hill because they couldn’t find an open dump with which to responsibly deal with their garbage. The pair was fined $25 each for improper disposal of rubbish, and the incident later became the kick-off for Guthrie’s seminal anti-war song “ Alice’s Restaurant Massacree .”
See? Getting rid of gross Thanksgiving leftovers—grease, oil, napkins, tin foil, whatever—in completely inappropriate ways is a goddamn American tradition. But this is a year of change, my friends. And something tells me Guthrie could get behind that.
See, according to the city of Baltimore’s public works department, dumping turkey grease down the sink is the genesis for gigantic congealed masses of fat, oil, grease, and baby wipes. These gross blobs build up over the years until they clog sewer pipes and are colloquially known as “fatbergs.”
Yes, fatbergs. You may remember these unsavoury stinking globules from September, when the city of London in the UK battled one that sprawled across a stretch of underground tunnel the length of two football fields (London’s solution was to convert it into biofuel). These are an American problem, too.
Indeed, the Associated Press reported that Baltimore, which battled to remove a fatberg from its sewer system in October, is now begging residents not to dump turkey grease down the drain. In a pre-Thanksgiving message, the city’s public works department said that dumping grease is “where it starts.”
Officials in other cities are aware of the increased risk for fatbergs around the holiday, too.
"We're all enjoying [these] big turkey dinners, and then people have those roasting pans with the drippings in the bottom," Cathy Rofshus, a public information officer with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, told Minnesota Public Radio. "For decades, we've just washed that down the sink with lots of hot water and sudsy soap."
This year, break the cycle. Call out your racist uncle, work up the courage to say no to a helping of your grandma’s “famous” ambrosia, go for a run, and for the love of all that is holy—put the grease in a container, let it solidify, and throw it in the trash.
Get six of our favorite Motherboard stories every day by signing up for our newsletter .