Pros & Cons of Garbage Disposals

Garbage disposals are popular in homes because they are convenient; in many cases, plates can be cleaned of directly into the sink instead of the trash can.

Odor

Garbage disposals are used to dispose of food waste, but much of the waste can be composted.Garbage disposals are used to dispose of food waste, but much of the waste can be composted.
Many modern homes are built with a garbage disposal attached to the kitchen sink drain. They can be very advantageous when used properly, but improper use can lead to expensive repairs. Garbage disposals are often criticized as being wasteful and ecologically unfriendly.

Using a garbage disposal helps to cut down on odors in garbage cans because food doesn't rot in the trash can. For homeowners with bi-weekly or monthly garbage pickup, this can mean a very large amount of food waste left to rot in the garbage. The smell can attract wild animals that may tear through the garbage to find the discarded food. The downside to using a garbage disposal is that the disposal itself can develop a foul odor, particularly if homeowners put forbidden food items down the drain and clog up the disposal. Adding citrus peels, citrus juice or baking soda deodorizes the disposal, but this means extra cost for maintenance.

Clogs and Jams

Garbage disposals are not meant to handle all types of food waste and the list of forbidden items is sometimes confusing. Stringy, fibrous waste such as celery, asparagus, banana peels, corn husks and coconut shells can wrap around the blade and cause it to jam. Meat products, including meat waste, skin and bones can clog the disposal, dull the blade and make the sink smell. Starchy foods, including rice, pasta, potatoes and potato peels often form a gunk that jams the blade and clogs the drain. Many starchy foods expand in hot water and can pack tightly in the drain pipe, which is an even more costly repair. Fats, such as butter, shortening and lard often jam garbage disposals and cause foul odors.

Waste

Garbage disposals require running water to flush food down the drain after grinding. This water serves no purpose other than to dispose of food items, many of which can be put to better use as compost. Sinks use an average of 2 gallons of water per minute. To get an idea of how much water is wasted each time the garbage disposal is used, calculate the average time it takes you to grind and flush the food, then put an empty bowl or pitcher under the faucet and run the water for the same amount of time. A better alternative to wasting water is to compost as many food items as possible, including vegetable and fruit scraps, egg shells, coffee grounds, tea bags, stale bread and crackers.

Water Treatment

Disposing of kitchen waste down the drain leads to extra waste in septic systems and water treatment facilities. The food waste creates a sludge which is more difficult for water treatment facilities to process, as the facility must use more chemicals and more energy to treat the waste water. Even if your drain doesn't flow to a municipal water treatment facility, this same sludge can build up in your septic system, which may require expensive and messy repairs. There are garbage disposal requirements in some municipalities that may govern the products allowed in the disposal, or the size of the septic tank a home needs.

About the Author

A former cake decorator and competitive horticulturist, Amelia Allonsy is most at home in the kitchen or with her hands in the dirt. She received her Bachelor's degree from West Virginia University. Her work has been published in the San Francisco Chronicle and on other websites.