What can go in a garbage disposal (and what not?)
This page is part of the Garbage Disposal Guide.
What can go in?
- Biodegradable food scraps only.
What not to put in?
- Grease, oil, and fat because it can congeal inside the drain pipes and clog up the sewer system.
- Fibrous and stringy food waste, such as celery and corn husk. (this is applicable for less powered garbage disposals).
- Meat bones, most disposal units can’t grind it up properly.
- Everything that isn’t food waste, such as packaging material.
In Sweden some larger cities encourage kitchen waste disposals because they want to mine the food waste for biogas.
Sometimes it can be a challenge to figure out whether or not the food scraps from your dinner are allowed to go in the garbage disposal. This is mostly because it is difficult to define exactly what food scraps can and cannot go into your at-home disposer, as this varies based on the manufacturer and the power of your garbage disposer model. However, there are some types of food waste that all disposers should be able to handle and other types of waste that should generally not go into your food waste disposal.
Video: What Can and Can’t Go Down a Garbage Disposer | Ask This Old House
This video takes a look inside a garbage disposal to see how it works and discusses some options for unclogging it. Afterward, the presenter demonstrates what can and what cannot be placed inside an average disposal.
Soft fruits and vegetables are fine to dispose
To begin, let’s name some straight forward food waste that your garbage disposal should be able to process without a problem. All garbage disposals can handle water, obviously, but more precisely using cold water is stronger recommended. A general rule of thumb for food wastes that can go into any food disposal is: if a baby can eat it, then your disposal can handle it too. If you have food scraps or leftovers that should be okay to put in your disposer, but for whatever reason, you are unsure about it, you can help your disposal by cutting the scraps it into smaller pieces. Generally, soft fruits and vegetables without pits or seeds are fine and so are cooked fruits and vegetables. Other foods that any garbage disposal should be able to process include cereal, smoothie drinks, citrus rinds, and soups.
Chance of clogging and damaging
Unfortunately, the list of foods that cannot go in your garbage disposal is longer and a bit more confusing than the list with food waste that can be discarded in a disposer. Starting again with the more obvious non-food items, such as cigarette buds, paper, and glass. And continuing with oil, grease, and fats, which are especially damaging if combined with hot water, as this combination further increases the chances of clogging. Next up are the hard food scraps like bones, seeds, and pits which can damage the interior motor of your disposal. For example, beef or chicken bones, apple cores, and peach or avocado pits.
Furthermore, expandable foods like pasta, rice, bread, or oatmeal should also not be thrown in the garbage disposal, as they will expand from the water in the chamber and cause clogging. Lastly, coffee grounds, eggshells, and high fiber foods such as artichokes, celery, lettuce, asparagus, carrots, corn husks, and potato peels also have been known to decrease a disposal’s performance by wrapping themselves around the blades.
As a final note, these are general recommendations and we advise consumers to consult the manufacturer directly for specific questions. Garbage disposals with more power can likely process some of the items listed in the “chance of clogging and damaging” paragraph but this should be researched based on the specific model and make. The recommendations described in this section should assure safe usage of all food waste disposal models, even the models with low power.
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By Recycling.com/ 21 February 2020