By Joshua Stevenson
I’ve never liked that name: the “garbage disposal.” It has a nasty ring to it, and it also makes it seem like you can put anything considered to be “garbage” down your sink.
I truly believe that a lot of people genuinely believe this. Heck, I believed it from my childhood. You see, we always had a garbage disposal built into the kitchen sink, and I always watched in wide-eyed fascination as banana peels, celery stalks, spoiled leafy greens, blemished radishes and beets, and even leftover meatloaf disappeared down into the garbage disposal’s gurgling, roaring gullet. With an upbringing like that, it’s hard to break the cycle of believing that the garbage disposal is for garbage.
Since my years as a wee child, I’ve learned a ton about septic systems, and it turns out that garbage disposals can wreak utter havoc on your system. In fact, here at Unique Drain & Septic, we’ve always recommended that you never use a garbage disposal if you’re on a private septic system. We’ll explore the last half of that statement below, because our recommendation does have a loophole (*evil laugh).
Now, I realize that we all struggle with using the garbage disposal. Until recently, I would dump my coffee grounds down the sink (which is an exceedingly ginormous no-no). As it turns out, there are some items that should never go down your sink’s drains under any circumstance, and coffee grounds are one of them.
If you’re on a private septic, there is simply no way to justify using a garbage disposal. Your septic is a highly sensitive, delicately balanced system. The system is specifically designed to only process human waste and toilet paper, and it only does this optimally if you supplement your septic with a bacteria-rich septic treatment, such as Septic System Digester. Putting large amounts of food waste into your tank can clog your system, blocking effluent from passing out of the system.
With all that said, we’ve arrived at our little loophole: if you’re on a city sewer (which means that your drains and toilets are connected to a municipal wastewater treatment plant), you can choose to use a garbage disposal. City sewers typically allow citizens to have at it with their garbage disposals, which basically means you can put anything down it. Some people even put old tea bags down their drains!
Now, does that mean we at Unique Drain & Septic would recommend that you put anything and everything down your drains? No, definitely not!
In fact, we believe that people should always consider the wider environment and their own commitment to live “rurally” when it comes to these matters (not to mention the person cleaning out the macerator pump at the city sewer treatment plant)!
But what are some items that can go down your drain and get munched on by your garbage disposal if you’re on a city sewer? Well, some garbage disposal manufacturers insist that anything from peach pits to small bones can go down the garbage disposal. I will ultimately leave the decision of what to put down your garbage disposal up to you, but I will say that exercising a bit of caution here is probably smart!
If I had to say what items I’d feel comfortable putting down a garbage disposal, the list would start and end with small amounts of non-fibrous vegetable peelings, stalks, or leaves.
No matter what you choose to do, it’s an awesome idea to periodically use Super Digest-It in your drains to digest any residual food or grease residue in your garbage disposal or plumbing. Super Digest-It will also help deodorize your drains so that you don’t get any nasty decaying-food odors!
With everything I’ve said so far, the core issue is still at stake: how does living rurally come into the picture?
For the most part, people who live rurally are committed to repurposing their waste rather than simply flushing it down the drain. We’re about innovation and wacky, DIY workarounds to reuse our refuse and reenergize the environment around us. I’ve personally found that not using my garbage disposal makes it that much easier for me to repurpose my food waste into my little rural ecosystem.
For the Garden
Vegetable peelings can easily be collected in a sealed plastic or glass container under the sink or on the countertop and deposited in a small space in your garden where you literally produce your own natural compost. Whenever your garden needs a little extra nutritional kick, you can work some of this natural compost into your soil. The same goes for compostable food waste (like coffee grounds!), which can also be added to your garden.
If you’re interested in learning more about repurposing food waste into compost, I found this article very helpful!
Feed for your Feathery Friends
Lots of rural-minded folks (including myself) also raise various breeds of birds (such as chickens, quail, pigeons, peafowl, kalij, pheasants, etc), and some food scraps, including cornhusks, leafy greens, vegetable peelings, fruit rinds, etc, are great for them!
Bones for Bone Broth
Instead of stuffing them down into their garbage disposal or throwing them away, many people save all the bones from their meat and make bone broth. Even some members of my family do this, and although it sounds involved, it’s actually not all that difficult. Here’s a very helpful blog about making bone broth!
Did you know you can actually make tea from fruit rinds and peelings? I didn’t either until fairly recently, but it’s true! The most popular rinds and peelings for making tea are lemon, ginger, and orange.
Have you ever seen banana extract on the shelf at your local grocery store? Well, you can actually create your own! One way to do it is to add banana peels to hot milk and allow the concoction to sit overnight in the refrigerator. In the morning, you’ll have homemade banana extract that you can add to your coffee or use for baking.
We all know that garbage disposals have been around for decades, and I don’t think they’re going anywhere soon. With the prevalence of garbage disposals installed in homes with private septic systems, it’s sometimes hard to hear that you shouldn’t even use your garbage disposal at all. But in the long run, if you’re on a private system, you will thank yourself for putting the dragon of your garbage disposal to sleep forever.
If you’re on a city sewer, however, the rules of the game are different, and it’s ultimately up to you whether or not you use your garbage disposal.
Regardless of your situation and with a little discipline, you can choose to repurpose what would previously have been washed down your garbage disposal’s gullet. It’s just one more step on the road to living a more sustainable, rurally rich lifestyle!