Garbage Can or Disposal?


For more than 20 years we owned and lived in a house with a substantial garden and a large compost bin. All kitchen waste except bones, paper, and plastic went to the compost bin. Our sink had a disposal, but we never used it. Now we live in an apartment and there is no compost bin. My choices for most of our kitchen waste are down the drain through the disposal, or in plastic bags and down the garbage chute. We get the plastic bags anyhow from our grocery shopping. Considering all factors, including the electricity necessary to run the disposal, which choice is less harmful to the environment?

Thanks, Courious in Palo Alto


Dear Courious,

So far I have not found a definite answer to your question, but have some ideas for you.

The City of Palo Alto has a website for recycling and you could phone or email them:
Phone: 650-496-5910

PG&E has information about energy savings on their website:

Please click on "Energy-saving Resources" for ideas on saving on electricity use in other ways in the home.

I had to face the same issue many years ago when I left my Dad's farm in Ohio, where we lived in harmony with the land, and moved into my own apartment where composting was not possible. Here are my thoughts: •

  • Plastic bags are made from petroleum much of which we buy from foreign countries that are not friendly to the U.S., so we are sending our money to folks who do nasty things to us, which endanger our citizens and folks in military service.
  • Plastic bags sit in the landfill for many years and do not decompose. Maybe they will start making them out of corn or such, but I don't think that is happening now. Paper bags decompose in the landfill but I have heard of "issues" with them also, as it takes energy to manufacture them and they probably make them from trees.
  • The sink garbage disposal does use water and electric energy, but we've had lots of rain recently and we use our own water to make electricity. We don't run the disposal all that many minutes per day and there's no way we can live without electricity these days. It is necessary to run the disposal long enough to wash the stuff down the drain so the pipes don't clog up - I save on my use of water and electricity in other ways to compensate.

For these reasons, I use my sink garbage disposal to reduce the amount of stuff I have to put in bags in the garbage. Please let me know if this information is helpful. I am a librarian with a B.S. in chemistry but not a scientist. I am sharing my own thoughts for your information and cannot say how scientifically accurate they are. If you need more websites or phone numbers to find experts, please let me know. —Flo



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