Can Your Garbage Disposal Help Slow Climate Change?

Originally posted on Environmental Media Association's blog.

Do you have a garbage disposal? Do you dump leftover meals down your drain and churn them up via said disposal? If so, you may be helping to curb climate change!
Household garbage disposals are helping to slow the effects of climate change in two ways. First, wastewater treatment facilities are increasingly adopting a technology called anaerobic digestion that can convert discarded food into a methane-rich byproduct that can be used for energy generation. And second, keeping food out of landfills decreases methane emissions - a significant environmental hazard (caused by food decomposing) which accounts for one-fifth of America’s total methane production, according to the EPA.
According to a study by sustainability consulting firm PE Americas, “If 30,000 households in a community switch from disposing food waste in a landfill to use of a food waste disposer, the global warming potential of disposing of food waste would be reduced 1.9 million kg of carbon dioxide equivalent. This is equivalent to the community not driving 4.6 million miles in the average American car or 100 community members going carbon neutral for a year.”
According to Triple Pundit, in the United States, most food gets sent to the landfill. Indeed, 54 percent of American food waste – or nearly 34 million tons per year – is sent to landfills, according to the U.S. Environmental Agency. As that food decomposes underground, it produces methane, a greenhouse gas with more than 20 times the potency of carbon dioxide.
Garbage disposals, on the other hand, send all that food waste to wastewater treatment facilities, many of which have anaerobic digesters that convert the waste into biogas. This process often offsets the energy needed to power the facility so significantly that much of the biogas can be sent back to the grid.
Garbage disposal companies are now jumping on the bandwagon, touting their positive environmental impact and encouraging consumers to discard food waste in disposals rather than in the trash. One company, InSinkErator has been marketing its latest line of garbage disposers – the Evolution Series – not only for its grinding power, but also as a clean tech innovation.
According to, more than 1,200 U.S. wastewater treatment plants have anaerobic digesters producing biogas, and InSinkErator is working to get more installed, thus rendering the sustainability benefits of garbage disposals relevant to more consumers. Other companies are joining the quest.
Jill Notini, vice president of communications and marketing for the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) adds that, “Food waste disposers make a very important contribution to the environment and most people are unaware of what a wise and sustainable choice they are making when they put their food ‘down the drain.’”