MORE than 4,000 blockages were removed from Oxfordshire's sewers last year as fatbergs continued to blight the system.

The problem was worst in Cherwell district, with Thames Water clearing 838 fat and grease and paper and rag blockages, up from 835 the previous year.

Cherwell had more blockages cleared than any other Oxfordshire district from 2016 to 2018, with 2,467 removed in total.

The 2,118 blockages cleared in West Oxfordshire over the three years was the lowest of any district.

In 2017, 3,580 blockages were removed from sewers across the county.

Read also: Thames Water says 'fine to flush' wet wipes will fight fatbergs

Today, the government announced it would introduce new controls on single use plastic items from April 2020.

The measures cover plastic straws, plastic drinks stirrers and plastic cotton buds, with the latter contributing to many fatbergs as they do not break down.

Richard Aylard, Thames Water sustainability director, said: “We very much welcome today’s announcement, particularly on plastic cotton buds which contribute to the 75,000 blockages we remove a year from our sewers.

"The plastic sticks don’t break up when flushed down the toilet so along with fat, wipes and other non-flushables they form fatbergs which can cause sewage flooding to homes, businesses and the environment.

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"Those that don’t form blockages are difficult to be screened out of the sewage when it arrives at a treatment site so can cause further issues there.

"As the ban doesn’t come into force until next year, in the meantime it’s important products containing plastic are disposed of in the bin and never down the toilet. Our message is ‘Bin it – don’t block it’.”

Shops will not be allowed to sell straws, but people can buy them from registered pharmacies after disabled groups highlighted how a total ban could lead to risk of dehydration.

Only plastic drinks stirrers will be totally banned from sale, but the government estimates that the new rules will see England's annual use of straws fall from 4.7bn to just 44m.

Fat/grease and paper/rag blockages cleared by Thames Water, 2016 to 2018:

Cherwell - 2016: 794; 2017: 835; 2018: 838.

Total: 2,467

Oxford City - 2016: 729; 2017: 723; 2018: 812.

Total: 2,264

South Oxfordshire - 2016: 815; 2017: 769; 2018: 827.

Total: 2,411

Vale of White Horse - 2016: 765; 2017: 650; 2018: 792.

Total: 2207

West Oxfordshire - 2016: 740; 2017: 603; 2018: 775.

Total: 2118