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The Advantages of Food Waste Disposers

By Ivan Petkov

June 11, 2013

Commercial Garbage DisposerAs we are walking down the road of the 21st century, a lot of our focus is increasingly pointed towards sustainability, balance and environmental protection. These three words have become so important in today’s world that they have begun to be applied nearly everywhere. This also includes restaurants and how they too can be a part of this continuously growing movement. There are a lot of ways that restaurants can deal with food waste. Some of these are more easily applicable, others not so much.

One way in which restaurants can at least partially contribute to efficient food waste management is by using food waste disposers. Though voices in the different camps tend to either oppose or embrace food waste disposers as a means of managing food waste, it certainly is true that not using a disposer and not managing kitchen waste in any other way is by far more harmful. In other words, a sink disposer is better than no disposing at all.

Sanitary Conditions

Two of the main advantages of using a food disposer are about maintaining proper sanitary conditions in the restaurant kitchen, and the efficient elimination of food waste which would otherwise end up in a landfill. By not throwing out organic materials but grinding them in the disposer, waste which will otherwise be collected and then transported to a landfill – to be burned or simply piled up – is gotten rid of instantly. This reduces the risk of accumulation of harmful bacteria in the kitchen or in the dumpster (which may also attract vermin). It also influences sanitary conditions in the environment, as food waste generates acidic substances which then end up in the soil and groundwaters.

Energy Production

True, one of the ‘cons’ goes that putting food through the disposer also creates harmful effects, as it blocks pipes and can be cumbersome on sewers and water treatment plants. But letting food waste rot in a landfill without managing it creates a huge amount of methane gas which, when not utilized, can be very harmful for the environment. Furthermore, more and more waste water treatment plants are actually able to make use of the food scraps by collecting them, “grit treating” them and then making use of end product for fertilizers. They also feed them to microorganisms which then produce methane that is captured and used for fuel or electrical energy.

Time and Space Efficient

Food disposer
John Flinchbaugh / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Food waste disposers are also very useful if managing food waste in other ways is simply too hard, time-consuming, would take up too much space or is simply not efficient enough. They fit in seamlessly under any sink and offer an easy way of directly disposing of food waste if no other options are available. Furthermore, they also permit for meat and dairy products to be disposed of (unlike with composts unless special conditions are met) although flushing down too much grease and fats can be the reason for clogged pipes and drains. With that said, food disposers offer an alternative to using endless amounts of plastic bags, having trucks transport the waste to landfills and the waste then polluting the environment.

Food waste management is a complex issue and there is no single unambiguous answer to what the optimal approach is, as all individual cases require their own solution which may be a combination of a number of practices. Certainly, using a food waste disposer in your restaurant kitchen is one of the steps which you can take to improve both sanitary conditions as well as environmental impact.

Ivan Petkov, food lover and sprout grower with a sweet tooth, writing for Culinary Depot – the largest online store for restaurant kitchen equipment in New York.

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