The Impact of Garbage Disposals on Plumbing and Sewer Systems

It is now a well-known fact that more than 50% of American households own garbage disposals. I mean, why not? It is a convenient piece of kitchen equipment that grinds up food scraps into miniature pieces that can go through sewer tubes without any problems.


But is that so?

Let’s talk about the impact of garbage disposals on plumbing and sewer systems and how it affects waste in general.

The Joys of Chopped-Up Gunk: How Garbage Disposals Work

Just to make sure we are on the same page and that we talk about the same appliance, let’s talk briefly about how garbage disposals work.

  • Step 1: You throw your leftover scraps into the dark abyss that is your sink’s drain.
  • Step 2: The garbage disposal’s powerful motor grinds up said scraps into teeny-tiny particles.
  • Step 3: A torrent of water flushes these particles through your pipes and into the wonderful world of the sewer system.

Sounds harmless enough, right? Well, not exactly.

When Good Disposals Go Bad: Plumbing Problems

Unfortunately, your beloved garbage disposal isn’t quite as harmless as it may seem. Here are some of the delightful plumbing problems that can arise from your garbage disposal’s handiwork:

  1. Clogs: All those tiny particles can band together to form one big, disgusting mass, creating the ultimate drain blockage.
  2. Foul odors: When your disposal isn’t up to the task of grinding your waste into oblivion, remnants can linger in your pipes, producing a smell that’s, well, less than pleasant.
  3. Pipe damage: Over time, the constant barrage of food particles and water can erode your pipes, leading to costly repairs.

So, while your garbage disposal seems like a real lifesaver, it can actually be a ticking time bomb for your plumbing system.

Note: Most of these problems can be avoided if you maintain your disposal properly and if you don’t shuffle down its throat things that shouldn’t go there.

Sewer System Shenanigans: It’s Not All Sunshine and Rainbows

And it doesn’t stop there. Your garbage disposal’s antics can wreak havoc on your local sewer system too. Here’s how:

  • Fatbergs: When you flush fats, oils, and grease (FOG) down your disposal, they can solidify and accumulate in the sewer system, creating monstrous “fatbergs.” Who doesn’t love the idea of a colossal lump of congealed fat lurking beneath their city?
  • Overburdened systems: Garbage disposals can significantly increase the amount of solid waste entering the sewer system, which can lead to overflows, backups, and an overall overwhelmed infrastructure.

Once again, be mindful of what you throw into your garbage disposal, remember, it’s not just about you.

A Friendlier Future: What You Can Do

I don’t mean to sound so negative, but you know, it’s about my environment too. Nevertheless, there are plenty of things that you (and me) can do right. For example:

  1. Choose wisely: Only put small amounts of biodegradable food scraps in your disposal. Your sink is not an all-you-can-eat buffet for your plumbing system.
  2. Keep the FOG out: Avoid pouring fats, oils, and grease down the drain. Unless, of course, you’re eager to contribute to your local fatberg exhibit.
  3. Run water: Keep cold water running during and after using your disposal. This helps flush particles through the pipes and prevents them from cozying up together to form a clog.
  4. Keep it sharp: Regularly clean and maintain your garbage disposal to keep it in tip-top shape.

Note: If your garbage disposal doesn’t seem to be up to daily tasks anymore, it might be clogged, jammed, not cleaned properly, or it’s simply too old. The good news is today’s disposals can be quiet with lots of safety and precaution features.

In Conclusion: A Love-Hate Relationship

There is no doubt that garbage disposals are great inventions that make dinner cleaning a breeze. However, it’s important to recognize its impact, both actual and potential, on plumbing and sewer systems.

The good news is there is no reason to panic, a lot of unnecessary damage can be prevented by proper use of your disposal. Be sure to maintain and clean your garbage disposal properly and occasionally check your pipes if they are not corroding.

On that final note, happy disposing folks!