Garbage disposals connect to the kitchen sink and grind food into small particles that can be flushed through the drain pipe. Garbage disposals reduce foul garbage odors and cut down on dish cleanup time. Garbage disposals increase the amount of solid waste in water treatment plants and introduce algae-causing particles into streams. More energy is needed to treat waste water and clean streams, so garbage disposals aren't the most environmentally friendly food disposal option for your kitchen.
One of the easiest alternatives to a garbage disposal is to eliminate the need for one in your kitchen. You can do this by reducing the amount of food waste you produce daily. Cook food in small batches so leftovers don't spoil in your fridge. Only put as much on your plate as you can finish and you won't have anything to rinse off the plate. You can significantly reduce the amount of food preparation scraps by consuming the peels of your fruits and vegetables. Many people remove potato and apple peels, but the peels provide your body with beneficial fiber to aid in digestion.
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Make a compost heap in your back yard to turn your food scraps into nutrient-rich, fertile compost for your garden. Your compost heap could be kept in a container or it can just be a simple pile in an inconspicuous area of your yard. Add only organic materials to the compost heap, including fruit and vegetable scraps, bread products and eggshells. Avoid adding fatty scraps, meat and bones to the compost heap, however, because you can attract unwanted animals to your yard. The compost will need to be turned regularly for best results.
Vermicomposting is a composting solution for those who have limited living space without a yard. Composting with a worm bin is an alternative to garbage disposals that you can keep in an urban apartment kitchen. Red wigglers and earthworms, among other types of worm, will eat your food waste, turning it into rich compost that you can use to fertilize your houseplants. You can purchase vermicomposting kits or make your own version at home. A plastic storage container with holes cut in the lid would work well. Add organic material like soil, leaves and straw to start the bin. Hundreds of worms may be required for efficient composting, depending on the size of your bin and the amount of waste you produce. You can order composting worms on the Internet from worm farms.
If you have a house pet, you can offer your food scraps to the animal as an alternative to using the garbage disposal. Dogs and cats will happily eat your leftover meat and even enjoy rice, pasta and vegetables. You can feed fruit and vegetable scraps to your child's pet hamster or guinea pig. If you happen to live on a farm, pigs, cows, horses, goats, sheep and chickens will happily dine on your food waste, although you should not feed meat to farm animals. If you don't have farm animals or pets, you can save your food scraps and donate them to a local farm to use as animal feed. Use a bucket with a lid or keep a slop bucket on your back porch. You can deliver it yourself, but you'll find that many farmers will gladly pick up the waste for you if it means saving money on animal feed.
Many people like garbage disposals for the simplicity of being able to scrape or drop food into the basin without worrying about stopping up the sink. Pulling wet food scraps out of the bottom of the sink is not a job many people want. As a simple alternative to energy-consuming garbage disposals, you can place a strainer or colander in the sink to catch your food waste. A large colander can be used for high volumes of food. If you just want to catch the small bits that accumulate from daily use, you can purchase wire mesh strainers that fit over your sink's basket strainer. As it fills with food, you pick it out of the sink and discard the waste in your garbage or compost.
- “E/ The Environmental Magazine”; Green Alternatives to Garbage Disposals; September 25, 2007
- Planet Green: Should You Use a Garbage Disposal?; Josh Peterson; December 4, 2008
- University of Nebraska Lincoln Extension: Vermicomposting: Composting With Worms; Soni Cochran
- “Taste of Home”; Garbage Disposal Alternative; Judy VanVoorhis