Help Eliminate Kitchen Waste
An easy way to reduce the amount of food thrown into the trash, and ultimately a landfill is with a garbage disposal. Disposals quickly and efficiently eliminate leftover potato peels, fruit rinds and many other types of food by grinding it into fine particles that are flushed out of the chamber and into the sewer or septic system.
As you shop for your new garbage disposal, consider:
• Which type of garbage disposal will work best in your
• Which size disposal is appropriate for your household needs?
• What special features are more important to you?
• Do you have a septic tank?
Benefits for Our Environment
Each year, nearly 34-million tons of food waste is trucked to landfills. Once there, it quickly decomposes and produces methane, an environmentally harmful greenhouse gas at least 21-times more potent than carbon dioxide.
Garbage disposals are a great waste management alternative for homeowners, and recently a trend has formed. New disposal installations continue to rise for existing homes as well as new construction. This trend benefits our environment in several ways:
- Using a garbage disposal reduces the amount of food waste sent to landfills by up to 33-percent
- Disposals increase renewable energy by up to 5-percent
- Communities would realize an offset of greenhouse gas emissions of more than 5,000 vehicles
- Households would use approximately one less trash bag per week, lessening the amount of waste send to landfills.
- Wastewater treatment plants are able to recycle food waste and turn it into energy and fertilizer
Garbage Disposal Types
Garbage disposals, sometimes referred to as garbage disposers or food waste disposers, function in two basic modes — batch feed and continuous feed. Continuous-feed models operate with the flick of a switch and run until the unit is switched off. Batch-feed models operate only when the disposal lid is engaged and the unit is activated.
Basic disposal models operate with a typical amount of noise. However, newer models run quieter thanks to technological advances and sound-deadening features, similar to dishwashers.
Most households with several members require at least a 3/4-horsepower unit. Increased horsepower reduces the likelihood of jamming, handles a larger volume of food waste more efficiently and translates into less cleanup time.
Your sink style also may play a role in your choice. An inexpensive stainless-steel sink may not provide solid support for a heavier, high-powered model. And an overpowering disposal may cause the surrounding countertop and cabinets to rattle.
Check out the links below to find the right fit for your kitchen:
How to Select the Disposal that is Right for You
Based on family size and desired features, you will be able to find a disposal that meets your needs. You can find disposals that:
- Grind almost any food waste, including bones and fibrous materials
- Are ultra-quiet
- Provide extra grinding capacity
- Work in tight spaces if you do not have a lot of room under the sink
- Offer the added assurance of a cover
- Work with a septic systems
Most models come in varying ranges of horsepower to tackle different levels of need. Basic models come with as little as 1/3 horsepower, best suited for small households with infrequent meal preparation or those grinding only small amounts of basic food waste such as fruit or vegetable skins. Disposals with motors less than ½ horsepower are not recommended for households with more than two people.
A 3/4 or 1 horsepower disposal is a good fit for households with more frequent meal preparation and larger amounts of waste. The higher horsepower is recommended for those who want to handle difficult-to-grind food waste, such as fibrous materials and bones. These also offer better sound insulation and may run more quietly than basic units.
Models that possess "anti-jamming" features help reduce the occurrence of simple jams, creating a more trouble-free operation. Some offer a button on the disposal, which must be pressed manually to reset the motor. Some require the homeowner to apply the hex-wrench-style accessory tool included with the disposal to work the jam loose manually. Some advanced models feature anti-jam circuitry that automatically senses pending food jams and can reverse motor direction or increase power to deter them.
For models equipped with "auto-reverse," the motor reverses direction each time the disposal is used. This helps free itself of potential jams without the intervention of the homeowner.
Newer models feature enhancements that allow them to operate more quietly. For instance, the outer shell of a disposal may contain insulation to reduce noise. Some models feature special rubber mounting designed to reduce vibration-related noise. Some include a specially-engineered sink baffle, designed to reduce the disposal noise. These features matter more in environments where the kitchen is exposed to other parts of the living quarters.
For lasting performance, look for a model that features a stainless steel grind chamber and components. Stainless steel components are less subject to corrosion and provide greater durability.
Most disposal models can be connected directly to your dishwasher, enabling you to grind up solid food particles cleansed from your dishes. This waste transfers through a hose connected from your dishwasher to the disposal, where it is stored to be ground up with other food waste the next time your disposer is operated. This installation option eliminates the time-consuming chore of pre-rinsing dishes before placing them in the dishwasher.
Disposals for Use with Septic Systems
When disposals are used in conjunction with a septic system, it is recommended that homeowners refrain from placing any solid, mineralized items such as egg or seafood shells into the disposal as it could contribute to the accumulation of sludge that may compromise the effectiveness of the septic system. More typical food waste, such as food scraps and fruit and vegetable peels, are compatible with your septic system.
A septic system is designed to safely treat and dispose of household waste from the kitchen and bathroom(s). If your system is sized to handle a dishwasher or clothes washer in addition to sinks and toilets, it can handle a disposer as well.
Wastewater flows into your septic tank, where solids that are lighter than water (such as grease, oils and paper) float to the top and form a layer of scum. Solids that are heavier than water float to the bottom and form a layer of sludge.
The middle layer of partially clarified water flows through a distribution box that evenly disperses it into your drain field. Gravel and soil then filter out pollutants and bacteria.
Naturally occurring bacteria in your septic tank help to decompose solid matter, but can't eliminate all of it. That’s why sludge must be pumped from your tank periodically to keep solid overflow from contaminating your drain field.
Disposers specifically designed for septic systems inject a special chemical into your septic system every time it is activated. These microorganisms digest both food and household waste inside your septic tank, reducing the accumulation of solids. Disposers equipped with this chemical:
- Help break down food waste (fats, grease, proteins and starches)
- Help break down solid waste including toilet paper
- Deodorize to help control sink and drain odors
- Are safe for drain fields, pipes and the environment
The chemical cartridges can last from three to six months. These models install in the same manner as other disposal models and do not require any special tools.
Installation Tips and Techniques
Installing a garbage disposal requires average plumbing and mechanical skills. It usually takes between 1 and 2 ½ hours to complete. Replacing your old model should take between 30 to 60 minutes, depending on your level of expertise and current plumbing. Installation may vary depending on whether or not your drain line comes out of the wall or the floor. Ask a sales associate about the right procedure for your home.
An electrical source of power is also needed. If an outlet isn't available under the sink, you will need to install one. Check with local codes before installation. Some communities have codes that don’t allow disposals because of limits on sewer capacity. They may also require an air gap for a disposal and a dishwasher.
Be sure to read and follow the manufacturer's instructions when installing your new disposal. For more installation tips please visit our Installing a Garbage Disposer project guide.
Sometimes the trickiest part of mounting the garbage disposer is lifting it up to lock it into the mounting rings. So you don't have to lift it so far, stack some scrap lumber, the box the disposer came in or a couple of thick telephone books under the unit. If you are replacing a garbage disposer with the same brand, you may be able to use the existing mounting bracket.
Some disposers come with a special wrench that turns the impeller if the disposer gets jammed. Keep the wrench and manual together in a location you’ll remember.
Always disconnect the power before reaching into a disposer. Unplug the unit from the outlet and then turn off the circuit breaker. Never stick your hand into an operating disposer.
There are a number of ways to increase the effectiveness of your disposal and prolong the unit's life. Follow these few simple suggestions to get the most out of your kitchen's disposal:
Things to Do
Things to Avoid
|• Run cold water before, during
and after operation
|• Running hot water while disposal is in use|
|• Grind small bones to scour
|• Putting fibrous materials such as celery or corn husks in a standard
disposal, which handle normal amounts of food waste such as fruit and
vegetable peels, soft food scraps and small bones. Premium disposals
handle the larger jobs.
|• Remove silverware and other
items from sink before use
|• Putting fats or grease into disposal|
|• Use disposal cleaner, deodorizer
or citrus peels to freshen up
• Grinding tobacco products or shellfish if you have a septic tank
|• Run the disposal each time you
put food in it to reduce corrosion
from food acid
|• Reaching into the disposal during use|