Wondering which food waste disposal method is the best? While there certainly is a consensus that tossing our food scraps in the trash is not a sustainable option, there are still some questions around whether using a kitchen food garbage disposal versus an at-home composting method is better overall.
Some homes come equipped with a garbage disposal, making them a quick and easy option for the residents that live there. Meanwhile, those who don’t have a garbage disposal may be tempted to install one. But before they do, it’s best to understand exactly how a kitchen garbage disposal works and learn the answer to the question - where does the waste from a garbage disposal go?
Read on to learn the pros and cons of both garbage disposal and composting, or skip ahead if you’re excited to give composting a try - we’ve listed ten methods to choose from!
- Garbage disposal vs compost: pros and cons of both
- Are garbage disposals bad for the environment?
- 10 easy ways to compost instead of using the garbage disposal
- The bottom line: is garbage disposal better than compost?
Let’s take a look at some of the benefits and drawbacks of these two food waste disposal methods.
Garbage disposal vs compost: pros and cons of both
Using a garbage disposal or a composting method are two ways to get rid of food waste without having to throw it in the garbage. And while an in-sink garbage disposal is more eco-conscious than simply adding food scraps to the landfill, it still is not as environmentally beneficial as composting.
Now that we’ve learned a bit about the differences between an in-sink disposal system and composting, here’s a deeper look at the pros and cons of using a garbage disposal vs compost.
Are garbage disposals bad for the environment?
While placing food scraps in a kitchen garbage disposal is a better option than throwing them in the trash, it still results in solid waste in the water system. The water needs to be filtered and disinfected before it can be reused, and the resulting biosolid often ends up in the landfill.
As previously mentioned, depending on the wastewater treatment plant, the biosolid may be converted into a usable fuel. However, the majority of the time this is not the case. Meaning that while garbage disposals aren’t the worst option for food waste disposal, they certainly aren’t the best. Because the best is composting!
Here are ten easy ways you can start composting, whether you have a yard, a balcony or simply a small space on your kitchen countertop.
10 easy ways to compost instead of using the garbage disposal
From traditional composting in your backyard, to an electric composter in your kitchen - there’s an option for you when it comes to sustainable food scrap disposal.
1. Backyard composting
The original at-home composting method - the backyard compost pile. And the great thing about a traditional backyard compost pile is it can be done in so many ways. The easiest way is to just pick an area of your yard that gets a lot of sunlight and start throwing your food scraps down. Make sure to also add “brown” materials at a ratio of three parts brown to one part food scraps so the pile doesn’t become soggy and smelly.
Also remember you’ll have to turn the pile a few times a week to keep the air circulating. One way to make this step easier is to create a second pile so you can shift your compost back and forth. A two-sectioned DIY compost bin made out of a wood frame and chicken wire is also a simple and effective way to take your composting up a notch.
Pro tip: If you want to go even further with your DIY backyard compost bin, a system with three sections allows you to use one for new compost, the second for compost that's partially broken down, and a third for the finished material you can now use in your garden.
2. Trench composting
A slightly different take on traditional composting, trench composting streamlines the process by allowing you to place your scraps straight into the garden.
To get started, dig a trench either through or alongside your garden area. Place kitchen scraps in the hole and cover it with soil as you go. You can continue to add scraps and bury them along the trench until it’s completely full, then dig another trench elsewhere.
Pro tip: One great way to do trench composting is to bury your veggie scraps in the fall and let them rot down over the winter. Then, in the spring, sow your vegetable seeds right on top of the trench and they’ll be provided with healthy nutrients all summer long.
If you don’t have the outdoor space for a backyard compost pile, or don’t want to deal with the potential smells this type of composting can lead to, Lomi is your best bet. Why? Because it’s a completely sealed, countertop-sized electric composter that can turn your food scraps into nutrient-rich dirt.
Lomi works by using heat, abrasion and oxygen to speed up the decomposition process. That means you can add food scraps to Lomi after dinner, go to bed, and by mid-morning have nutrient-rich fertilizer you can add to your indoor and outdoor plants. Amazing!
Pro tip: Lomi can even process Lomi Approved bioplastics, such as compostable phone cases and plant-based cutlery.
4. Solar digester
An outdoor composting method that requires almost no work, a solar digester is a compost bin that turns your kitchen waste into water and carbon dioxide. Designed to sustainably get rid of food waste, a solar digester like a Green Cone won’t produce a usable material to fertilize your garden with. But it does feed the soil beneath it.
Placing a solar digester in the garden truly is one of the most hands-off outdoor composting methods around. It requires no turning, no watering and it accepts pretty much every kind of kitchen scrap imaginable - and even small amounts of pet waste.
Pro tip: For a solar digester like a Green Cone, adding an accelerator powder helps the waste to break down more quickly if your yard is shady or the weather is cold.
5. Compost tumbler
A compost tumbler is a great option for those who either have a small backyard or an apartment balcony for an outdoor space. They’re also a great way to make traditional composting just a bit easier, thanks to how simple they are to turn.
Just like with a regular compost pile, the food scraps you place in a tumbler need to be turned so they receive adequate oxygen. But because of a tumbler’s rounded shape and handle, spinning your compost is a breeze.
Pro tip: Get a compost tumbler with two chambers. One for new scraps and the other for compost already in the making.
Do you like worms? While some people answer that question with a resounding “no” many others find these tiny creatures fascinating and would love to see them hard at work, turning food scraps into soil. If you haven’t guessed by now, vermicomposting is a food disposal method that uses worms to break down the scraps, creating compost that you can place in your garden.
When used properly, worm composters are odorless and require almost no maintenance. And the best part is that worms can process a remarkable amount of scraps for their size. Plus, many of the vermicomposters in the market are expandable so you can add to them as needed.
Pro tip: Buy an attractive looking vermicomposter and place it in the corner of the kitchen. It’ll look nice and be super functional at the same time.
7. Bokashi bin
Bokashi is a kitchen composting method that uses an anaerobic process, meaning it does not require oxygen like traditional composting does. And although a traditional compost pile that is starved from oxygen will give off a strong, unpleasant odor, the bokashi method actually thrives in an oxygen-free bin.
To get started, you simply place your scraps in a countertop bin and - once full - add an activator before closing the lid. Once closed it takes the contents two weeks to ferment and when done, you’re left with material that can be buried in your garden.
Pro tip: Use a bokashi bin with a spigot, which will allow you to drain out bokashi tea during the fermentation process. You can then add this tea to your indoor plants!
8. Chicken composting
While it’s a slightly more involved method than some of the other options on this list, chicken composting just may be the most fun! Not only do you get to raise chickens as pets, but they can also help you create lovely compost for use in your garden by way of manure.
Chickens will happily eat your kitchen scraps and then, through the course of good ol’ nature, produce manure that is rich in nutrients. Another way chickens help with composting is they love to scratch at and spread around compost. Let them into your compost area whenever it needs a good turning and those happy little animals will do the work for you.
Pro tip: Read all about what it takes to raise chickens before you make the investment. The more prepared you are, the better it will be for you - and the chickens!
9. Community compost pile
Don’t have a yard? Not interested in indoor composting? Or maybe you just prefer to do all your gardening in a community setting? If so, see if there’s a neighborhood garden nearby with a community compost pile.
The great thing about a community pile is that it’s a shared responsibility, so you can rest assured that if you miss turning the pile someone else will carry out the task. And once the compost is done, you and your gardening friends get to share the result of your hard work and use the finished product in the community garden.
Pro tip: Don’t have a community compost pile yet? Be a local hero and start one!
10. Municipal pickup
If you just aren’t interested in - or don’t have the time for - outdoor or indoor composting, municipal pickup could be an option. Much like garbage and recycling collection, many municipalities have organic waste collection.
What you can send to your town or city’s compost pile will depend on where you live, but it very likely will include fruit and veggie scraps, bones, eggshells, dairy scraps and possibly even soiled paper and cardboard. Check out your municipality’s website for more information.
Pro tip: Municipalities that offer organic waste collection often offer countertop bins to store your scraps in, plus larger bins for you to place on the curb on pickup day.
So, is composting better than garbage disposal?
Yes, composting is certainly a better way of dealing with your food waste than using a garbage disposal. As we’ve discussed in this article, using a food garbage disposal is still a better option than simply throwing your food scraps into the trash, but nothing beats the natural process of turning food back into an organic, usable material.
Now that you know all about food garbage disposal systems, it’s time to dive a little deeper into the whys and hows of composting. And don’t forget to check out what everyone is saying about Lomi! Used on its own or as one part of a larger composting process, Lomi makes your life easier and helps you say goodbye to smelly food waste.
Written by: Larissa Swayze