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Do under the sink garbage disposals get the green thumbs up or down?

Hope is wondering how green under-sink garbage disposals are:

"Ok, so I'm going to the experts here, what's the word on under-sink garbage disposals?  Other than diapers, a lot of our garbage seems to be table scraps that can't be composted.  We're thinking of remodelling our kitchen next year and I was wondering if it would be good to include a garbage disposal into the plan.  Any thoughts?  Thanks!"

You are too kind to call us experts, Hope. But here's my understanding of the situation with a little help from the Master Recyclers and Portland Environmental Services' "After the Flush" publication. According to Lauren, the master recycler coordinator, "The majority of the roughage, or more fiberous material (if you will) is filtered immediately at the treatment plant and sent to the landfill.  The majority of this is paper, but some of the food from the disposal will also be filtered here. So it is the same problem: it ends up at the landfill. However, this first screen is fairly wide and I would say some of the food (especially if you have an efficient disposal) will get through this filter. It will then be put through several levels of physical or biological filters that end up then being used as compost in Eastern Oregon.  So, it is better than just throwing it away as it has a chance of being composted via the sewer system." Additionally, Lauren adds "I get the impression that Portland is unique in composting our waste from sewers. I would bet that most jurisdictions are landfilling."

I've posted about how informative the "After the Flush" brochure is, especially to kids who enjoy anything with a high grossness factor. For all intents and purposes, any wastewater or solids in the sewers, whether from flushing toilets or kitchen drains/disposals all goes through the same process. So does the garbage disposal get the thumbs up or down? Kinda depends on where you live. I'd suggest you compost as much as you can at home as a first step because then you know with certainty what is happening to it.

Another thing to keep in mind is that Portland Metro will very likely expand the recycling options of home-owners in the next two years. Hopefully we'll soon be putting kitchen scraps out for composting in curbside bins as they currently do in Seattle and San Francisco. It does remain to be seen what scraps will be included.


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