The Garbage Disposal Debate

Believe it or not, there is a pretty big debate over the use of garbage disposals. Yes, garbage disposals. Yes, those things at the bottom of your sink that make a lot of noise. Image

The debate is over whether it’s better throw compost-able garbage down the garbage disposal to reduce the amount of waste in landfills or to throw all trash in the garbage to aid the water treatment systems. Some say 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 argue (including most European countries, and up until recently, New York City) 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.

Because water treatment and sewage plants vary city by city, this is tough question to answer. The first step is to research your city’s water treatment plant. Does your water treatment plant catch solid waste and use it for fertilizer? Yes? Then you may want to consider throwing your waste down the disposal. (Remember, fats and oils NEVER go down the garbage disposal! Fats and oils can cause serious damage to your pipes and local water treatment plant) Is your community low on water? If not, then again, you may want to consider using your garbage disposal.

On the other hand, some landfills capture the methane gas produced by waste to use as re-usable energy. If your landfill company does this, you may want to consider throwing everything in the trash.


The bottom line is to compost whenever possible. Composting reduces our carbon footprint by turning it into fertilizer, conserving water and energy, and keeping waste out of landfills. For some people, composting is inaccessible. Lucky for us, it’s not! As Swarthmoreans, we have room in our backyards to create and maintain compost piles. (Check out the EPA’s website for a “how to” on compost piles) If you don’t have time to compost (or you can’t stand the smell!), check out Kitchen Harvest, a composting company in the Western suburbs of Philadelphia. Kitchen Harvest offers a compost pick-up service for a small fee and some pretty sweet perks. One of those perks is compost cash, coupons you can earn to use at a few local spots. The best part? We accept compost cash!

If you don’t live in the Swarthmore area, no sweat! There are tons of curb side composting services popping up all over the place (it’s becoming prettttttyyy trendy, I’d say). Before you toss your compost down the drain or into the trash bag, do some research and find out how you can do your part.

(check out more about the garbage disposal vs. trash can debate here)


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