MadSci Network: Environment

Re: How have garbage disposals changed the way cities handle waste?

Date: Mon Nov 8 13:19:18 1999
Posted By: Mark Murphy, Staff, Environmental Science Division, Texas Institute for Applied Environmental Research
Area of science: Environment
ID: 940978878.En

Garbage disposas have l indeed had environmental significance. Probably the best way to answer is to provide a list of "good" and "bad" contributions of the garbage disposal as follows:


  1. Reduced urban city and landfill waste of organic material (which rots and smells, attracts flies, insects, rodents, and lends itself to disease transmission.
  2. Some convenience in cleaning the dishes and food preparation.
  3. New commodity invented.


  1. Increases the Biological Oxygen Demand load to municipal wastewater treatment plants, thus increasing operation and maintenance costs in these plants (probably why NYC is slow in approval).
  2. Has made rural and other folks lazy- most everything that goes down the disposal could be used as either some type of animal feed (esp. chickens and pigs) or would be great for composting. Rural disposals are ridiculous. They also overload limited septic systems.
  3. Use electricity and water resources that would not be otherwise used.
I'm not sure how you could measure significance, except to chronologically correlate number of disposals in a selected city to the BOD load on the WWTP, while eliminating straight population increase. Hope I've helped some.

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