YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT FOOD WASTE DISPOSERS
for Food Waste
Whether by personal conviction or regulation, Americans are putting
more emphasis than ever before on safeguarding the environment. And
nowhere is that emphasis more apparent then in the heart of the home,
According to the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Information Bureau, an industry
group, food waste disposers are the fastest way to get food waste out
of the home and on the way to decomposition. Ground food scraps flow
directly from the sink to a sewage treatment plant or a septic system
where they break down more rapidly than they would in a landfill.
"Disposers are an ideal method for diverting food wastes to treatment
facilities and reducing the amount of waste targeted for landfills,"
said Dennis Broderick, vice president of sales, In-Sink-Erator. "In
fact, disposing of food scraps with the rest of the garbage actually
increases the chance of rodent and insect infestation and unpleasant
odors and spills." This is especially important because
food waste now comprises 15 to 18 percent of the world's landfills,
according to a 1992 study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
In fact, more than 90 municipalities, including Denver, Detroit and
Indianapolis, require disposers to be installed in all new home construction.
are some environmental advantages of using food waste disposers?
addition to reducing some of the burden on landfills, disposers have
other environmental advantages," said Sergio Varela, vice president
of sales, Anaheim Manufacturing. "Disposers also do their own form
of recycling. The sludge left after ordinary treatment at a sewage plant
can be used as fertilizer. Food waste is effectively recycled back into
the earth." Seattle, Los Angeles, Milwaukee and Portland, Oregon
are several cities which now have active sludge recycling programs.
In a 1990 study by Dr. P.H. Jones, professor emeritus
at the University of Toronto's Institute for Environmental Studies,
Jones concluded that disposers were the most effective, convenient and
environmentally correct way to eliminate food waste in areas where sewage
treatment is available. Disposers use very little water
and electricity for operation. A recent study by the EPA found disposers
use an average of 1.2 gallons of water per day per household, less than
one flush of a low-flow toilet. On average, disposers also use about
1.5 kilowatt hours of electricity per year, which is less than the energy
used by a 7.5 watt night light running continuously for a year.
"In addition to being a safe alternative for disposing of biodegradable
waste, disposers are a positive complement to already established recycling
or composting programs," added Broderick.
disposers safe for my septic system? Disposers have
even been proven safe to use with a septic system. According to a U.S.
Public Health Service study, ground food waste does not hamper the operation
of a septic tank system if the septic tank is properly sized and maintained.
If a septic system is operating with a dishwasher and washing
machine, the home already has a larger tank and absorption field and
a disposer can be used with the system. F.H.A. guidelines allow use
of disposers with septic systems if the tank and field are sized under
its guidelines for washing machines and dishwashers.
do food waste disposers operate? Food waste disposers
are installed directly under the sink attached to the drain opening
and the plumbing. Most models also have an optional dishwasher connection.
Food waste fed through the sink falls into the disposer's
chamber and onto a turntable dotted with holes to allow water and waste
through. The turntable's rotation throws waste against a circular wall
with a grater-like surface. Metal impellers attached to the turntable
then press the food against the wall, grating the waste. Finally, the
food particles are washed out of the disposer and down the drain.
According to the Bureau, almost all bio-degradable food wastes can be
fed into disposers including: chicken bones, melon rinds, tea bags,
egg shells and coffee grounds. However, they should not be used to grind
clam or oyster shells, corn husks or other materials with a high fiber
content. Under no circumstances should non-food materials such as glass,
plastic or metal - bottle caps, tin covers or aluminum foil - ever be
put through a disposer. Maintenance is easy. Grinding
small bones actually helps clean the disposer by scraping away stubborn
deposits or citric acid and pulp. Grinding a little ice is another way
to clean deposits and get rid of odors. Occasionally pouring a little
baking soda in the disposer also helps control odors. For the most part,
however, disposers are self-cleaning.
of food waste disposers are available? There
are two types of disposers: batch-feed and continuous-feed. To operate
a batch-feed disposer, fill the disposer with food scraps, then insert
and push down or twist a stopper. Continuous-feed disposers are started
by flipping an electrical switch. Continuous-feed disposers
typically outsell batch-feed disposers. That may be because consumers
like the convenience of continuously adding waste scraps to the disposer,
rather than stopping to refill the batch-feed models. Batch-feed, however,
are impossible to turn on without the stopper in place. This would greatly
reduce the likelihood of the disposer being activated by a young child.
"With either type of disposer, it is essential to run
the cold water when grinding to move the waste all the way through the
drain line," noted David L. Weiner, executive director of the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling
Information Bureau. "Fats and grease congeal and harden in cold water
and can be flushed through the system. Hot water should not be used because
it can dissolve fats and grease, which may then begin to layer on drain
the costs associated with food waste disposers? Disposers
range in price from $40 to $350, not including installation, and have
between 1/3 and 1 horsepower. The higher the horsepower, the more quickly
the disposer can handle harder food wastes. Batch-feed disposers
are slightly more expensive than their continuous-feed competitors, but
are easier to install. Continuous-feed disposers require both a plumbing
and an electrical hook-up. If replacing an existing continuous-feed
disposer, a licensed professional p-h-c contractor can completely install
a new model. However, in a new installation, a licensed p-h-c contractor
will bring in an electrician to do the wiring. The disposer and the dishwasher
should be installed on separate circuits. "In any plumbing
installation, it is best to use a licensed plumbing-heating-cooling contractor,"
according to Weiner. "These professionals can install either type
of disposer correctly and safely, with the least possible risk to the
homeowner." Founded in 1919, the Chicago-based Plumbing-Heating-Cooling
Information Bureau is the consumer information arm of the plumbing-heating-cooling