Monday, November 24, 2014

The Garbage Disposal Controversy

While remodeling your kitchen, you install a $200 under-the-sink garbage disposal. Finally, the last twist of the wrench. A big job but well worth it….it’s done. You turn it on to make sure it works and doesn’t leak. Perfect. Now you’re ready… not use it. Not use it? What? 

The controversy spiraling around the use of garbage disposals for food scraps vs throwing it in the trash to be buried in the landfill has many facets and can get pretty heated.
The debate is over whether it’s better throw compostable garbage down the garbage disposal to reduce the amount of waste in landfills, or to throw all food waste in the garbage to aid the water treatment systems.

It is believed that water treatment and sewage plants are designed to handle food scraps and filter out solid waste for fertilizer, while reducing the amount of landfill waste. Others (including most European countries, and up until recently, New York City) argue that garbage disposals alter the chemical composition of the water which affects the local aquatic life. Garbage disposals are also notorious for wasting water and energy.

Some say the use of garbage disposals for food scraps is good because it cuts down on waste in landfills and the accompanying formation of poisonous methane gas. Methane gas, the by-product produced by the natural decomposition process of organic waste, is primarily comprised of food, household waste, and yard waste.

The more organic waste present in a landfill, the more landfill gas is produced by bacterial decomposition. Some types of organic waste contain nutrients, such as sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium, that help bacteria thrive. When these nutrients are present, landfill gas production increases.

To some, the production of methane gas is a downfall of throwing food waste into the landfill, but proponents maintain that the production of methane is beneficial when harnessed as a source of usable energy.

Increased usage of garbage disposals may cut down on the amount of methane produced, but arguments have been made that since food waste is 70% water (the same as human waste), it should be considered for waste water treatment. Most modern waste water facilities can create fertilizer products from solids.

Garbage disposals have been blamed for contaminating the waste water systems and the extra water required to run it is wasteful. It seems that food waste creates sludge that is difficult for water treatment plants to take care of, particularly in areas where the waste treatment methods are not the most modern.

Regardless of your position in the Landfill vs Garbage Disposal debate, many pros and cons have been recognized by both sides, thus increasing awareness of each. For more information on recycling and disposal options, visit our website at

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