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Where Does Garbage Disposal Waste Go?

food scraps on cutting board with knife

The food scraps that go through your garbage disposal ultimately reach a water treatment plant. It may shock you but the organic materials disposed of from your sink are treated quite conveniently in these facilities.

The disposal unit turns the garbage into a semi-liquid state before sending it to a water treatment plant. Having said that, it is not possible to dispose of all kinds of organic materials through your garbage disposal. Ingredients like pasta, rice, grease, and bones will not only clog the drain but will also damage the blades. You can know more about the materials that cannot be put inside garbage disposal by clicking here.

Once the garbage has made its way to the water treatment plant, solid waste will be filtered out. This sludge will then be transferred to a digester tank. The bacterial activity inside the tank will convert this waste into bio-solids and methane (energy source).

How Does a Garbage Disposal Work?

illustration of garbage disposal workings

Despite the fact that garbage disposal is an extremely common electrical appliance, most people don’t know how it works. This is probably the most common reason that leads to jammed and burnt out garbage disposals. Basically, this device is designed to chew up food scraps that are thrown down the drain.

First and foremost, it requires a continuous flow of water to operate properly. In order to properly understand the working of garbage disposal, you need to know a little about its parts. For this reason, it is highly recommended to read the user’s manual before using a disposal unit.

Splash Guard

The rubber flaps around the sides of your sink drain constitute a splash guard. It is responsible for keeping crushed waste and water inside the unit, despite the splashing.

Upper Hopper

Nearly all the important parts of garbage disposal are located inside the upper hopper. The first one of them is the ‘Shredder Wheel’. It is a stationary piece of metal that has teeth and grooves on it for grinding. This flywheel is spun by a motor, which is present at the bottom of the disposal unit.

This motion creates the centrifugal force that spins the food scraps and water into the ‘Shredder Ring’. A couple of impellers (one on each side of the wheel) pushes these materials onto the ring. This grinding process will crush the waste materials into extremely small pieces that will be washed down the drain by the running water.

Are Garbage Disposals Bad for Septic Tanks?

worker draining  septic tank with large hose

People who are using septic tanks are always reluctant to install garbage disposals in their homes. They have a lot of reasons to worry about because garbage disposal can cause significant damage to septic systems.

Several precautions are required to ensure proper septic functioning if your sink has a disposal unit. Similarly, it requires regular maintenance that is difficult for domestic users. Under these circumstances, it is not advisable to go for garbage disposal if you have a septic tank.

Septic Systems

Septic tanks separate floating scum and solid materials from the wastewater. Floating oils and grease rise to the top while heavier sludge drops down to the bottom. An increase in the width of these two layers will decrease the water-holding capacity of a tank. Consequently, it requires regular pumping to keep serving its purpose.

Using garbage disposal means that you drain an additional amount of solid waste into your septic tank. This will reinforce the layer of deposited sludge much quickly. The natural bacterial activity that is responsible for breaking down solid components will not be able to cope with this. In order to counter that, you will need to inspect and pump your septic tank more frequently.

Some people might go for a garbage disposal that is designed to work with septic systems. These specialized appliances have solutions of enzymes and other chemicals that catalyze the breakdown of solid materials. Having said that, there is no scientific proof to back these claims.

Are Garbage Disposals Bad for Plumbing?

pipes connected in a maze on a white background.

Will garbage disposal clog my pipes? This is one of the most commonly-asked questions about these disposal units. The shortest possible answer to this question is NO, but you need to ensure proper installation and usage.

Professional Installation

Many people opt to install the garbage disposal on their own in an attempt to save some money. It is not a really good idea because a faulty installation can cost you much more in the long run. For this reason, you should always go for a professional plumber to install/replace your garbage disposal. It is extremely important to check for pre-existing clogs in the pipes before installing the disposal unit.

Safe Usage

NEVER overestimate the capabilities of your garbage disposal. Every machine has its limit and it should not be made to strive more than that. Therefore, you should only put those materials down the drain that can be washed away easily. Ideally, you should only place those things inside your disposal that can be liquefied.

Similarly, you need to make sure that the unit always operates with cold running water. This will help the unit to wipe away the solid particles. Likewise, it will be effective in handling any accidental grease or oil.

Garbage Disposal vs. Composting

a composting crock on a kitchen counter

It is a really tough comparison to make as both these techniques have their pros and cons. If you are looking for a convenient method to tackle waste, you must go for the most suitable one. The following discussion may help you to make an informed decision.

Garbage Disposal

The very first advantage of choosing garbage disposal over composting is its convenience. Unlike composting, you don’t need any special equipment or space to use this technique. This is one of the major reasons why garbage disposals are quite popular in people who live in apartments.

Secondly, the usage of garbage disposal is quick and easy. All you need to do is to keep collecting the waste and dispose it of once/twice a day.


In contrast to garbage disposal, composting is an amazing process for the environment. Not only does it enriches the soil (organic fertilizer), but it also inhibits the growth of weeds. Being a natural fertilizer, it limits the need for inorganic chemicals that carry harmful toxins. It is also a beneficial method for saving the cash that you were going to spend on fertilizers.

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woman looking under sink at leaking pipes

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