Garbage disposals are common in North America. In Europe they are not much used but they are becoming more popular. One reason for the popularity of the garbage disposal is that they are environmentally friendly. But you may have heard some people claiming the opposite. In same places, garbage disposers are even banned. So what are the facts? Are garbage disposals environmentally friendly or not?
The garbage disposal is one way of reducing the amount of food waste that is dumped into landfills. Food waste is the largest category of waste ending up in landfills. It may not sound like a big problem, after all a lot of food biodegrades. But not all food waste biodegrades, some of it attracts vermin and flies. The main problem is the food in landfills produces methane when it rots. Methane is a greenhouse gas, meaning that it increases the greenhouse effect.
Home composting is one of the best ways of disposing food waste but that is not possible for many city dwellers. Clearly, the sheer amount of food waste creates an environmental problem.
The people that are against waste disposers mean that the waste disposer does not solve the problem. The garbage disposal just moves the problem from landfills to wastewater treatment plants. It is true that the garbage disposal creates potential problems. But are the problems created by the garbage disposer larger than the problems it solves?
Many operators of wastewater treatment plants don’t like garbage disposals at all. A lot of the food waste that goes into the garbage disposals consists mainly of water so it makes sense to return it as water. But the wastewater treatment plant has to take care of the solid food waste as well. A lot of the food waste consists of fat which can clog the pipes. The issue is further complicated by the fact that garbage disposals increase the water consumption. Increased water consumption increases the strain on the environment.
The complaints from wastewater treatment plants have led to that in some places garbage disposals have been banned. The ban of garbage disposers in New York was well known, it was lifted in 1997. The pipes in many buildings could not cope with the additional strain that garbage disposals added.
Modern wastewater treatment plants are able of converting the food waste in the water into biogas, which can be used as energy source. According to studies, the value of the biogas produced is higher than the cost of processing the food waste in the wastewater treatment plant. This is the main reason why garbage disposals have started to appear in some places in Europe. With the right infrastructure, the garbage disposal can be environmentally friendly.