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Garbage Disposal Pros And Cons

Here we share our garbage disposal pros and cons including its purpose, reasons for and against, why you may need this fixture for the kitchen sink, and important garbage disposal considerations.
Black garbage disposal installed under sink A garbage disposal is an electric-powered device that can be installed beneath the drain of a sink. Garbage disposals have a grinding chamber studded with sharp cutting surfaces, which is rotated by a small motor. 

When food waste is introduced to the spinning grinding chamber, a garbage disposal flings it against the cutting surfaces, shredding the food into smaller pieces. 

These pieces of food waste eventually become small enough to fall through holes in the chamber and are washed down the pipes into the sewer system.

What Is A Garbage Disposal For?

Garbage disposal assembly wood top kitchen The purpose of garbage disposal is to shred food waste into tiny pieces that can pass through plumbing. The waste is washed down the drain, moves through the sewer system, and is sent to a water treatment facility. 

The environmental impact of garbage disposals is unclear. On one hand, washing food scraps down your sink reduces the amount of waste sent to a landfill. 

On the other hand, the wastewater treatment facility must use significant amounts of energy to process solid waste. 

Pros of a Garbage Disposal

Garbage disposal kitchen sink The pros of a garbage disposal include reduced smell from decomposing organic matter and convenience of food waste disposal. 

Convenience

With a garbage disposal, you don’t need to navigate your trash can when preparing to do dishes. Imagine never scraping a plate again. 

With the flick of a switch, the garbage disposal turns on, and food waste can be scraped directly down the drain. This is among the handy kitchen design ideas that can readily improve convenience.

Affordability

A garbage disposal represents an upgrade to your daily life. For under $300 and an afternoon of installation, you can improve your kitchen sink experience for several years. That’s a good deal. 

Plumbing Protection

Preventing clogs in your pipes means diligently ensuring that no solid food matter makes its way down your drain. Let’s be honest, most of us aren’t that consistent. 

A garbage disposal ensures that any food scraps in your sink won’t wind up causing you plumbing problems down the line. 

Reduced Smell

Food waste is organic matter, and over time it will decompose. Decomposition is a stinky process and is accelerated by heat and moisture. 

Without a garbage disposal, trash can get very stinky, very quickly. Using a garbage disposal puts nearly all organic matter down your drain rather than in your garbage can, significantly reducing the smell. 

Cons of a Garbage Disposal

Garbage disposal white kitchen cabinet under sink wood floor Garbage disposal cons include the limitations on their use and their incompatibility with septic systems. 

Limited Use

Only certain material is suitable for an under-sink garbage material. It is generally recommended that you avoid entire categories of food waste, disposing of them with the rest of your household trash. 

The list of things you can’t put down the garbage disposal includes: 

Anything greasy, fatty, or oily

High-fiber foods such as potato and banana peels or celery

Anything you can’t break apart with your hands, like bones or fruit pits.

Clumpy/starchy foods including rice, beans, and even pasta. 

Tough fruit rinds

Coffee grounds

Higher-powered garbage disposals may be able to handle some of the items on the above list, but if you put a banana peel in a ¼ horsepower garbage disposal, it’s going to jam. 

Maintenance

All garbage disposals jam occasionally. Using them according to the instructions makes jams less likely. Higher-end, stainless steel garbage disposals should be nearly jam-free. 

Unjamming a garbage disposal sometimes requires turning a ¼ or 5/16 Allen wrench in the hole at the bottom of the machine.

Some models have an auto-reverse feature, where the garbage disposal will automatically reverse the direction of the impellers if it senses a jam.

Do I Need A Garbage Disposal?

Contractor checking garage disposal under sink If you are in a municipality that strictly controls the amount of waste you can discard, or your household generates a large amount of waste, you may find a garbage disposal useful. 

They can eliminate the amount of waste that is sent to the landfill, by washing food wasted down the drain. Many people find garbage disposals to be very convenient, but they are not necessary appliances.

If you have a septic system, a garbage disposal might not be the right fit. Garbage disposals were designed to be used with sewer systems, where wastewater is transported to a central location and treated. 

Although you theoretically can use a garbage disposal with your septic system, it’s not advisable. Adding more solid material to your septic system will cause it to fill up faster, requiring more frequent pumping. 

Septic systems are designed to break down and hold human waste, and putting oily or greasy foods down the drain can cause them to malfunction. 

Can Any Sink Have A Garbage Disposal?

Kitchen sink faucet countertop white cabinets wood flooring Most types of kitchen sinks can have a garbage disposal, but not all. It depends on the regulations governing your living space, and the size of your under-sink cabinet. 

The major limiting factor when installing a garbage disposal is the amount of space underneath the sink. However, garbage disposals are available in a range of sizes. One can be found to fit almost any sink. 

While it is theoretically possible for a sink to be too small to accept a garbage disposal, this would be a very unusual scenario. 

Some homeowner’s associations, apartment buildings, and municipalities have started to restrict the installation of garbage disposals. The reasoning behind these decisions usually has to do with the extra burden garbage disposals put on water-processing facilities. 

Are All Garbage Disposals The Same Size?

Garbage unit installed under kitchen sink All garbage disposals are not the same size. The smallest garbage disposal models are about one foot high and six inches wide. 

The larger a garbage disposal is, the more powerful motor it requires. The power of the motor determines how the disposal will perform. 

A one-horsepower garbage disposal motor is very large and may not fit under your sink. If it does, it will be able to handle almost anything you put down it without jamming. 

Use it to grunt up typical jam culprits such as fruit peels, potato skin, and coffee grounds. A garbage disposal this powerful can even handle chicken bones. 

Three-fourths horsepower garbage disposals are smaller, but can still handle just about all your leftovers. Motors of this size tend to have at least some sound-dampening features and don’t jam easily. 

A one-half horsepower garbage disposal is even smaller and must be used with care. These units don’t have enough power to grind up tough materials. 

Even over-feeding the disposal with approved food waste can cause it to jam, so garbage disposals in this range must be treated carefully. 

One-third horsepower garbage disposals are more trouble than they are worth, in most cases. They are the cheapest and worst-performing of all garbage disposals. Expect frequent jams. 

A one-third horsepower garbage disposal is likely made with inexpensive parts that are likely to rust. This is a disadvantage too, especially if you’re thinking of updating your kitchen. Maintaining them will likely add to the overall kitchen remodel cost.

Are All Garbage Disposal Mounts The Same?

Contractor installing garbage disposal kitchen Not all garbage disposal mounts are the same. There are two common styles of garbage disposal mount: easy-mount, and three-bolt mount. 

An easy-mount garbage disposal mount has a click and lock design that allows you to connect or disconnect the garbage disposal without using a special tool or key. 

The older, three-bolt mount design requires manipulation with a tool in order to remove or insert the garbage disposal.

Many models of garbage disposal are compatible with either mount. Check the product details carefully before making a purchase. 

The mount also supports a gasket (if present) and the garbage disposal flange. The flange is a sloped piece of plastic that directs the flow of water and solids into the grinding chamber. 

Experts recommend replacing both the mount and the flange when you replace your garbage disposal. 

While this takes additional time and effort, it makes sure you don’t have any worn-out parts or leaks in the garbage disposal system.

See more related content in our article about modern kitchen designs on this page.

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