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How eco friendly is your garburator?

Food waste ready to be bokashi compostedGarburators (or garbage disposal unit) may seem harmless enough tucked away in your kitchen sink. Many people feel good about using their garburator. After all, they are saving food waste from the landfill. Right?! But how eco friendly is your garburator?

The cost of garburators

If we’re talking cold hard dollars, then a study a few years back showed that garburators cost Metro Vancouver $2 million a year! $2 million to clean out all the fats, oils, grease, and general gunk that gets chopped up and passed through garburators. Basically our sewage systems were designed to deal with…. well, sewage. When people start using garburators that adds a lot of extra stuff which blocks up the pipes. This means our sewage systems need a lot more maintenance. Hence the $2 million per year bill.

Environmental cost of using a garburator

But, what is the environmental cost of using your garburator? This really depends on what happens to your food waste if it isn’t put down the garburator, as well as what happens to the organics waste in your sewage. Lets think about the former first, as this is the part that we have control over.

If you compost at home, have a curbside collection or a convenient place to take your organics for composting then you should never need to use your garburator. Even if you consider fuel from pick-up vehicles and compostable/paper bags to store your food waste; you (and the environment) are always better to use home composting or local organics collection program for your food waste.

Bokashi composting is becoming many households favourite way to compost all of their food waste. Bokashi composting allows you to compost all of your food waste, including cooked foods, meat, and bones, along with fruits and veggies. How to get started with bokashi composting.

But what if you don’t have a local composting solution. It could be argued that putting your food waste down the garburator is better than it ending up in landfill. Organics that end up in the landfill will rot and putrefy under anaerobic conditions. This rotting creates methane gas; a powerful greenhouse gas. Rotting food in landfill is the second largest manmade source of methane. Therefore by composting food waste, we can eliminate these greenhouse gas emissions.

Remember, if you are using a garburator to avoid putting your food waste in the garbage, it does not mean that this food waste will avoid going to the landfill. And that leads us nicely into thinking about what happens to organic waste in your sewage….

What happens to your garburator food waste?

Do you know what your city does with its sewage? No? Not many people really give it much thought. There are a few different things that may happen to your garburated food waste once its headed down your kitchen sink. Here are the four common ways to dispose of sewage sludge (in order of environmental preference):

  • Land application

This means that the food waste (along with everything else that goes down your drain) is applied as a fertilizer to agricultural land.

  • Incineration

Another alternative is for the sewage sludge (including the garburated food waste) to be burnt.

  • Landfill

Food dumped in landfillThe third option (this isn’t the worst one!) is for the garburated food to be sent to landfill. So after all that energy wasted in your garburator, additional maintenance and load put on the local sewage system, it ends up in the landfill anyway. Where it will rot and putrify and produce harmful gases.

  • Ocean dumping

Another, and arguably the worst, option is for the food waste to be dumped in the ocean. Just think about it. All of that garburated waste (along with everything else that goes down our drain) sent out through a long pipe and deposited in our oceans along with all those toxins and pathogens. Hmmmm, not what I would feel comfortable happening to my food waste.

I am not a sewage sludge expert, but needless to say, home composting is by far my preferred option!

Order now! Find all your bokashi composting supplies in our online shop.

Other posts you might like to read:

Bokashi composting: how to get started

Reduce your carbon footprint with bokashi compost

5 responses to “How eco friendly is your garburator?”

  1. Lloyd W Fenske says:

    I’m the owner of a plumbing company in Vancouver BC Canada. I have struggled for years with the potential ban of garberator ar waste disposal usage. Lets start with the argument of grease as a problem. In a residential home the grease will cool and become a problem in that drainage system on the property. Yes this may end up in the municipalities waste system but better than in a land fill. If a Garberator is used properly, it is doing the planet a favour. This machine will digest organic matter way better than a human digestive system can. So next point, the method of disposing of organic waste through composting is the ultimate way if you live in an area that has green space to accommodate this but this is not available in densly populated areas. The invitation of unwanted rodents is always a problem, and can cause expensive repairs to just about everything. 90 percent of vegetable waste is water, and has some incredible amount of proteins and minerals. If Municipalities really want to improve the waste introduced to the treatment facilities, they should look at banning sewage grinding pumps used in conditions where the surface grade is lower than the existing sewer. I have personally witnessed and been apart of countless incidences where plastic, rubber, heavy towels, cuetips, dental floss, and even animals are jammed up in the pump! So before you decide that a garberator is the worst, think about that.

  2. Marilyn Crosbie says:

    I would never put fats into a garburator or kitchen drain. Mom kept a washed soup can in the fridge in which to pour bacon fat or other meat fats. In the past, mothers taught their children these things, but they din’t seem to anymore. Yes, the bacon fat went into the landfill, but isnt that better than clogging up the sewage systems?

    • Mike Laye says:

      I found this:

      Did you know, small amounts of cooking fat can be put in your green bin? As long as there is another organic matter, such as paper towels, to absorb the grease, you can compost it! Allow the grease to harden in the pan, then simply scrape into your green bin

  3. Scotty says:

    Only one problem with composting at home and it happen in our neighbourhood we had a huge rat population explosion

    • Nicki Casley says:

      Rats (and other pests) can be a problem when composting food waste, if the compost pile is not maintained correctly. Effective composting in a traditional compost pile requires regular turning, the correct brown:green balance and the correct moisture levels to ensure that the temperature of the pile is hot enough to effectively break down the kitchen waste. Even with a well maintained pile, some food items (such as cooked food, baked goods, pasta, potatoes, eggs, meat and dairy) often still attract pests.

      Bokashi composting is a great solution for composting food waste. The fermentation process (which happens in a sealed bucket in your home) renders the food waste unattractive to pests (including rats). The fermented food waste can be added directly to your garden soil or compost pile without attracted unwanted pests to your garden. And the whole process from food waste to useable soil takes just 4-6 weeks. The compost produced using bokashi composting is rich in nutrients and microbes and makes amazing soil for your garden.

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