The Impact of Garbage Disposals on the Environment

Trish Popovitch

Domestic garbage disposal units once were considered an efficient way to get rid of food waste in the home. In the current green living climate, the environmental impact of domestic garbage disposal units may effect an individual's decision to utilize the mechanism in their home.


A garbage disposal is a mechanism inside the kitchen sink that contains a number of blades that grinds food waste into very small pieces. The waste is sent down the drain into the water pipes and out into the sewer system. It is used in domestic and commercial kitchens to get rid of food waste in a timely and efficient manner.

Sewer System Issues

The garbage disposal systems has its ups and downs with a major down being the releasing of food waste into the the sewer, which feeds into the municipal water supply. In some areas, garbage disposal units require a permit due to the extra work disposals put on the sewer system.

The pipes and drainage systems in older homes may not be up to the task of a garbage disposal system. A plumber should always check the pipes capacity and age before installation. The food waste may clog pipes, decrease the cleanliness of the system and cause septic tank problems.

Water Issues

Environmentally speaking, the garbage disposal uses a lot of extra water to flush waste. The average household utilizes around 700 gallons of water a year just to push food down the drain. This convenience may effect the conservation of water in the future.

Food-borne bacteria can cause severe and deadly illnesses. Although municipal water is treated for over 90 different contaminants, there are a number of toxins, chemicals and bacteria that float freely in the water systems. Adding food particles potentially carrying dangerous bacteria can corrupt a system and poison ground water supplies.

Disposal Versus Landfill

For some, the environmental impact of the waste disposal unit is a better alternative to filling already saturated landfills with food waste that releases methane gas and adds to global warming. Large food particles are filtered from the water system and are sent to the landfill as well, which means the less efficient and powerful the garbage disposal, the more impact it has on the environment.


A compost heap is considered a positive alternative to both the landfill and garbage disposal unit. By putting food scraps in a designated area or bin in the yard, adding water regularly and waiting for decomposition, a household can create fertilizer, decrease waste, reduce their carbon footprint and help the environment.

A garbage disposal may be better than a landfill, but it wastes water and creates a need for additional filtering and chemicals in the public water system. Natural decay and reuse of inedible food waste has the most positive impact on the environment.