Have you been curious as to where your food goes after it's been dropped into your garbage disposal? Though it may seem as though it's just disappeared, scraps of your food are left behind and transported elsewhere. The journey our food scraps go on isn’t too dissimilar from what happens to our garbage.
Once you know about what happens to scraps that survive the garbage disposal, you may start looking for eco-friendly alternatives. That’s why we’re here to help by answering several key questions, including:
- Where does garbage disposal go?
- Are garbage disposals eco-friendly?
- 7 environmentally friendly garbage disposal alternatives
Let’s first answer the most basic yet most important question of all. What happens to your food waste after it's shredded by a garbage disposal?
Where does garbage disposal go?
Once the scraps have been ground up by the garbage disposal, the water in your pipes carries them to your local wastewater treatment plant. Any solid food pieces that reach the treatment plant are filtered and sent to either an incinerator, anaerobic digestion facility, or landfill.
This may not seem like a big deal, but you shouldn’t want any of your waste to end up in a landfill or incinerator. The majority of garbage disposal waste that ends up in a water treatment facility eventually gets sent to a landfill. The problem is that landfills aren’t meant to assist the decomposition process. Organic waste rots in landfills, releasing harmful gasses and taking up space.
Incinerators are problematic as well. Though the incineration of your waste can create energy, incinerators also produce a great deal of carbon dioxide. Of the three, your garbage disposal waste being sent into anaerobic digesters is usually the best-case scenario. Here, your organic waste will be put into large tanks and undergo a biological process in which microorganisms are used to convert waste into fertilizer. This process allows your scraps to break down without releasing methane into the atmosphere, though there is some low-level pollution and a risk of spills.
Are garbage disposals eco-friendly?
Despite some common misconceptions, garbage disposals aren’t very eco-friendly. Though shredding food helps it break down faster, these scraps aren’t being dumped into a compost pile where they can safely decompose. Instead, the scraps are usually being buried under tons of other trash in landfills. Without access to oxygen, these scraps will release methane - a greenhouse gas that contributes immensely to climate change (second only to carbon dioxide)
The release of methane isn’t the only way garbage disposal waste can put the environment at risk. A great deal of water is wasted propelling these scraps through the sewer system to reach the water treatment facility. Your scraps can also end up harming marine life and polluting the ocean if they're sent to a landfill located next to a body of water. The good news is there are plenty of alternatives to garbage disposals out there that are just as convenient while being far more eco-friendly.
7 environmentally friendly garbage disposal alternatives
Disposing of food scraps doesn’t need to have a negative impact on the environment. There are a wide variety of eco-friendly ways to dispose of waste outside of having a food garbage disposal in your drain. If you’re ready to replace the blades and grinding chamber with a greener disposal system, these alternatives are for you.
1. Save and eat leftovers
Why throw solid food waste into your garbage disposal when you can keep it to enjoy later? Saving your leftover supper for lunch the next day is one of the most eco-friendly and easy ways to dispose of food scraps. This method obviously doesn’t work for scraps like banana peels, but you should still package up things like rice and pasta.
If you haven’t been storing your leftovers, it’s never too late to start. All you need is containers or bags with air-tight seals. Keeping things air-tight helps keep your meals fresh and prevent against contamination and bacteria growth. If you end up storing a lot of leftovers, try to keep your oldest meals at the front of your fridge so you don’t forget about them.
This is great for: People who have a habit of making more than they can eat. This solution is also convenient for people who never feel like they have time to make lunch for work!
2. Composting with Lomi
You can have your own environmentally friendly garbage disposal at home with Lomi. This indoor composter allows you to convert food waste into nutrient-rich fertilizer within hours. The scraps are broken down in this odorless machine using oxygen, heat, and abrasion.
Lomi is among the best kitchen compost bins for its efficiency and compact size. This composter is suited to people living in all different places, whether you reside in a large home with a spacious backyard or a smaller apartment. You can simply set Lomi on your kitchen countertop, throw your scraps inside, and activate the device. Though Lomi is able to break down a wide range of materials, you should also ensure that the material is Lomi Approved before putting it inside.
This is great for: Anyone interested in breaking down food scraps but with a simple, user-friendly, quiet, and odor-free method. Lomi is also a great choice for people living in apartments that don’t have the outdoor space for a compost pile.
3. Outdoor composting
When it comes to garbage disposal vs compost, composting is definitively the more eco-friendly option. If you have the backyard space and decide that you’d like to go with an outdoor method, you have several options to choose from. You could purchase a tumbling composter, a vermicomposting bin, or set up an outdoor bin.
Outdoor bins are ideal for households that produce large amounts of waste. With a big outdoor bin, you’ll have all the space you need for potato peels, corn husks, and essentially all the food waste you can think of. That said, an outdoor pile may be a bad option for those who live in cities or don’t have a backyard. That’s why being able to be used indoors is one of many standout reasons to buy Lomi.
This is great for: People that have lots of outdoor space and create large quantities of food waste.
4. Freeze food before it spoils
Don’t send food to a water treatment plant when you can freeze it instead. Many people throw their leftovers in the trash, kitchen sink, or garbage disposal because they assume they won’t eat it before it spoils.
Thankfully, you can just freeze your food to prevent it from going bad. If you’re not overly familiar with how to freeze food, how the temperature affects bacteria, or what should or shouldn't be frozen, check out this helpful freezing guide.
This is great for: Anyone that wants a relatively low-effort way of preserving food without filling up the fridge.
5. Cook reasonable portions
An effective way to stop putting leftovers in your garbage disposal is to prevent having food leftover in the first place. If you tend to make larger portions than you or others in the household can eat, and you don’t want or can’t store leftovers, you’re creating more waste to go into the trash or garbage disposal.
Unsure of how to create healthy portions and reduce your chances of having leftovers? Check out this healthy portions guide. Alternatively, you can try to make note of your eating habits to more accurately predict how much or how little food you’ll want to eat.
This is great for: Those that don’t want to deal with storing or eating leftovers, along with anyone interested in eating and serving healthier portions.
6. Buy food deliberately
Buying food deliberately means planning meals, creating a shopping list, and sticking to it. Completing these tasks will help prevent you from buying more than you need or have time to eat before it goes bad. Less spoiled food means less waste going into the garbage disposal.
Of course, there are many other benefits to this great habit. Creating a meal plan and a shopping list can save you time and money at the grocery store. It’s better for the environment, your wallet, and your conscience.
This is great for: People that want to create less waste and spend less time and money in the grocery store each month.
7. Turn scraps into smoothies
A popular food waste solution is to turn your scraps into something new rather. The waste you send to your local water treatment plant could be used to create something healthy and flavorful. Spinach that’s a little past its expiration date, for example, can become a nutritious addition to a smoothie.
Outside of smoothies, there are plenty of ways to bring new life to scraps. You could make syrup from fruit pits or jam from apple cores. You could also use your veggie scraps to create a delicious broth. There are plenty of great recipes online to help you get creative with your leftovers.
This is great for: Smoothie lovers and generally anyone interested in repurposing leftovers outside of just saving them for lunch the next day.
Wastewater treatment plants and landfills are no place for fruits, veggies, and the other waste we create. A garbage disposal may seem convenient, but there are plenty of equally easy ways to get rid of organic waste without having a negative impact on the environment.
Whether you decide to throw your scraps into a smoothie or an electric composter, you’re making a better choice for our planet. If you’re interested in learning more about all the different ways you can compost organic waste, check out our composting for beginners guide and the other helpful articles on our website!
Written by: E Sawden