What is a garbage disposal?


Home Food Waste Disposer What is a garbage disposal?

By Recycling.com/ 21 February 2020 Shares

What is a garbage disposal?

This page is part of the Garbage Disposal Guide.

A garbage disposal is an electronic device, also known as a food or under-sink compactor, that grinds up biodegradable food waste and scraps under your sink. Then the food particles are flushed away with water down to drain. The disposer is installed inside one of your kitchen cabinets and sits between the sink drain and the drain pipe.

A garbage disposal grinds up food waste and scraps under your sink

In the disposal unit, you will find a rotating grinding plate with swiveling metal impellers that grind and shred the food waste into small particles. These food remains are then flushed into your sewage system through your plumbing. It is also an option to connect your dishwasher hose to the discharge of the garbage disposal unit.

How does it work?

An in-sink garbage disposal doesn’t work the same way as a paper shredder, blender or food processor. This means that it doesn’t shred or chop the food scraps with sharp cutting blades. Rather, an under-sink garbage disposal grinds food scraps with a plate or grinder wheel.

The wheel is equipped with pointy impellers or lugs which spins around extremely fast, creating a centrifugal force. When biodegradable green waste is fed into the unit, the wheel grinds up the food forced against a stationary grinder ring. The remaining food particles are then washed down the drain with, preferably, cold water.

The use of cold water is recommended to prevent possible clogging due to solid fats.

Video: How does a InSinkErator garbage disposal works?

Video: What happens inside a food waste disposer?

Will ground food waste clog the drain pipes?

A garbage disposal should not clog your drain pipes if it is used properly. But a jammed up disposal unit or clogged drain pipe can happen. Here are a few reasons why your drain pipes can clog. It can clog because:

  • Fat, grease or oil was disposed of with warm or hot water, which congeals inside the drain pipes.
  • Hard, stringy, or fibrous food waste was fed into the disposer which couldn’t be processed properly and jams up the disposer or drain pipes.
  • Too little water was used to wash the food waste particles away which caused a jammed up drainpipe.

The pros and cons of a food waste incinerator


  • Reduce the volume of food waste.
  • Convenient and hygienic way of disposing of food scraps.
  • Relatively easy to install under most kitchen sinks.
  • It keeps food scraps away from landfills.
  • Your trash can doesn’t smell bad anymore.
  • Requires minimal energy (3-4 KWh a year / 50¢ a year).


  • Composting food scraps is more eco-friendly.
  • Some garbage disposers can make quite some noise.
  • Not every disposer unit might fit your kitchen cabinet.
  • After a while a garbage disposal can have a bad odor because of bacteria.
  • Some disposers can’t grind and process stringy or fibrous food scraps.
  • A food scrap disposal can jam, overheat or leak water.
  • It is possible that drain pipes get clogged.
  • Some disposers require extra parts for installation which are not included.
  • A continuous feed garbage disposal requires approximately one gallon of water a day.
  • Not recommended when you make use of a septic tank.
  • Wastewater treatment is more difficult because of food waste particles.
  • Not every garbage disposal might fit your sink, such as a farmhouse sink or Kraus sink.

A garbage disposal is also known as a food waste incinerator. And in Canada this device is called a garburator.

Features to look for

What are the most important features of garbage disposals and which ones should be taken into consideration when looking for a disposal to buy? Below you can find a list of important features that will help you choose the best garbage disposal for your needs.

Alternatives for kitchen waste disposals

What else can you do to dispose of your food scraps in the kitchen? Besides using a kitchen waste disposal there also some other alternatives you can consider. Such as:

  1. Recycling bin dedicated to biodegradable food waste
  2. Composting bin for composting food waste

Garbage Disposal Guide
Tips for buying a garbage disposal

Garbage Disposal Guide

By Recycling.com/ 21 February 2020 Shares