Use of garbage disposal units diverts the impact of food waste from methods such as landfill or incinerators to effluent disposal systems. The advantages and disadvantages need to be weighed for each area.
It is often said that most organic waste would be better used for composting, an option not open to many city-dwellers without an effective collection system.
Energy usage is not high; typically 500 to 1500 watts of power are used, comparable to an electric iron, but only for a very short time.
Daily water usage varies, but is typically comparable to flushing a toilet a couple of times.
This is a tricky question, and it depends on where you live and how waste is handled locally. When you throw food away, it can either go to an incinerator, which uses more energy than an in-sink disposal; or to a landfill, where it can eventually biodegrade. However, any contribution to a landfill ultimately promotes the creation of more landfills, and furthermore, many poorly-designed landfills actually work against the biodegrading process. When you use a disposal, the food matter ends up in a sewage treatment facility which is equipped to clean out organic food material–that’s essentially what feces is–but can have problems if the proper amount of oxygen is not added to water to aid food decomposition. The best option is to compost if possible; if not, depending on local practices, disposal units could be your best option.
This is a question that has undergone some debate in the past and still hasn’t been decisively decided on. There are harmful effects either way. A garbage disposal consumes water and a little electricity, the waste is then handled by the water treatment plant, where methane is released during processing and you are left with a bunch of biosolids at the end. Throwing it away, sends it to the landfill, where methane is released during degradation and we end up with a pile of garbage somewhere.
The best bet is to start a home compost pile. There are some resources for that below. If you don’t want to do this, I would recommend finding out if either your water treatment plant or landfill capture the methane released to use for generating heat or electricity. If so, send the wastes towards whichever facility does that.
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