Are Garbage Disposals Environmentally Friendly?

Garbage disposals are popular in modern homes because of how convenient they are and how effectively they deal with kitchen waste by chopping them up into tiny pieces. Users find that their bins don’t fill up as much when they use their garbage disposal, meaning less landfill.

 But are garbage disposals an eco-friendly way to get rid of food waste?

 In this article, we’ve got all the information you need to know about garbage disposals and whether owning one will help or only do more harm to the environment.

 How Do Garbage Disposals Work?

 The first step to understanding whether garbage disposals are environment-friendly or not is to have a clear idea of how they work.

 These machines are installed under sinks, inserted between the drain and the trap. They’re specially designed with a grinding chamber and an impeller that spins rapidly when turned on, grinding food waste into tiny pieces.

 Once the food waste is pulverized, it gets washed down by water and then passed through the plumbing and end up in the sewer.

 Are Garbage Disposals Environment-Friendly?

Garbage disposals do a certain amount of good for the environment, but they can also have negative effects.

 To determine whether your kitchen disposal is affecting the environment negatively or positively, there are four important things to take into consideration: 

  • Where does the food waste go once it’s pulverized?
  • How is the wastewater treated in your area?
  • Are there are any large bodies of water near you?
  • Is it converted into renewable energy?

Food in Wastewater

Wastewater is treated in large treatment plants through certain chemical, biological and physical treatment processes. Once the water is treated, it leaves the wastewater treatment plant and is released into the local waterways where it’s reused for various purposes such as drinking, irrigation or for aquatic life.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a garbage disposal in your kitchen means that more food will be added to the wastewater system. As this happens, the wastewater will need to be treated further.

 Therefore, whether garbage disposals are eco-friendly depends on your local wastewater system. If the system is well set up to process food waste and convert it into energy, then a disposal could be beneficial.

 On the downside, treating food in wastewater is not cost-efficient. The food has to be passed through pipes and sent to the plant for treatment which can use up a lot of energy and water.

  • Effects on Plant and Marine Life

Disposals used near large bodies of water can actually be doing more harm than good. Food waste contains a lot of nitrogen which can be harmful to plant and marine life.

If you live in an area where there are excessive amounts of nitrogen in the water, using a garbage disposal means that you’re adding more nitrogen into the wastewater system which could be affecting the environment.

  • Effects on Methane Production

Food waste (not what’s sent down a disposal) ends up in landfills where it rots and releases the potent greenhouse gas, methane, which contributes to global warming. Methane is 21 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, making it extremely harmful to the environment.

Garbage disposals are considered an environmentally friendly method of food waste disposal since they lessen the amount of methane gas that would normally be produced in landfills.

Today, major cities like Chicago, Boston and New York are using equipment that converts this food waste into renewable energy so if you live in one of these cities, then your garbage disposal unit is doing plenty of good.

Alternative Ways to Dispose Waste

If you’re not comfortable with having a garbage disposal unit installed in your kitchen, it might be a good idea to consider other ways to get rid of food waste in a sustainable manner. Here are some suggestions:

1. Composting Food Waste

This is possibly the most eco-friendly way to get rid of your food scraps. If you have a garden at home, composting food waste is worth considering since it’s easy to do and won’t cost anything.

If you don’t have a garden to use your compost, you can donate it to a public garden or give it to someone who would find it useful. 

If starting a compost pile at home is too much of a hassle for you, you can always give your food scraps to a neighbor’s compost pile instead.

2. Give Your Waste to a Local Farmer

Offering your food waste to a local farmer is an easy way to get rid of it, while still making use of the scraps.  There are community food waste programs that enable mutually beneficial partnerships between communities and farmers.

3. Try Worm Composting

Worm composting, also known as vermiculture, is a composting method in which organic waste is converted into compost by red worms. It’s an excellent way to dispose of your food waste and get rich, soil conditioner to use in your garden.

4. Recycle the Waste at a Solid Waste Facility

If your town has a waste recycling center, you can dispose of your food waste there. Find out whether your town takes measures to recycle organic materials, how it’s done and how you can be a part of it.

5. Use the Waste to Feed Animals

Feeding waste to domestic pets is not a good idea, but it’s perfect for most farm animals. If you or your neighbors have pigs, goats, or chickens, a lot of kitchen scraps can go their way.

 Should You Invest in a Garbage Disposal Unit?

If you’re not up to the challenge of composting and reducing your food waste, then it might be worth considering getting a garbage disposal unit for your kitchen. Here’s why investing in a disposal unit could be a good idea.

1. You Can Save Money on Plumbing

Worried about the upfront costs of having a garbage disposal installed? The cost of not having one can be much more troublesome. Without a garbage disposal unit, food waste will tend to get into your kitchen drain and clog your pipes, causing plumbing to get damaged. Using a kitchen disposal the right way can reduce the likelihood of this happening.

2. Efficient and Convenient

Garbage disposals are highly convenient. When cleaning the dishes, you just have to drop the food waste into the disposal, run it for a couple of seconds and you’re done. You won’t need to segregate your food waste and worry about the pipes clogging up.

3. Prevents Bad Odor and Illnesses

Keeping food waste in trash bins cause bad odors. Mold spores and bacteria from food waste can also spread, causing sickness or allergies. If you have a garbage disposal unit, you won’t have these problems because most of the food waste will go straight to your drain.

 The Bottom Line

Reducing your carbon footprint requires a conscious effort to manage waste properly. While this is not as easy as it sounds, that guilt-free feeling you get for making the extra effort is surely worth it. After all, having a garbage disposal unit installed does not only benefit the environment – it also makes waste management a lot less complicated for everyone in your home.

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