How food waste disposers can benefit cities

Food waste disposers can help municipalities significantly reduce the volume of food waste being disposed of in their landfills and reduce the amount of trash put out on city streets. That’s what happened in Philadelphia after InSinkErator, in a partnership with the city, installed 175 food waste disposers into the kitchen sinks of homes in two Philadelphia neighborhoods. Residents soon reported putting out an average of one fewer bag of trash each week. They also reported reduced odors and problems with rodents and other pests as the average volume of trash they put out each week fell by 35 percent.

InSinkErator, an AHAM member and manufacturer of food waste disposers, established similar partnerships with four other cities—Chicago, Boston, Milwaukee and Tacoma, Wash.—to assess the impact of the use of food disposers on food waste management                       

After having disposers installed in their homes, some project participants reported throwing out less trash. The average reduction in trash volume for each city, according to AHAM member InSinkErator, was as follows:

Philadelphia: 1.4 pounds

Milwaukee: 3.3 pounds

Boston: 4.1 pounds

Tacoma, Wash: 1.9 pounds

The InSinkErator - Philadelphia partnership was so successful in reducing food waste that the city changed its building code to require the installation of food waste disposers into new residential construction in the city.

Food waste is the single biggest contributor to solid waste in municipal landfills. In 2015, discarded food made up about 21 percent of all waste sent to landfills or incinerators. Food waste is also a major cost for American families. Various studies have estimated that food waste costs families around $600 a year. But the costs are more than financial. Most of what is wasted ends up in municipal landfills, where it is the largest single contributor to solid waste. It also creates an environmental hazard. As it breaks down, it releases the methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.

Food waste that is put through food waste disposers is sent to wastewater treatment plants, not landfills. At the plants, the methane the waste produces can be captured. Many wastewater treatment plants use the captured methane to help power their facilities. Use of food waste disposers may also significantly reduce overall trash volumes, resulting in less trash being kept in homes prior to pickup and fewer bags being put out for pickup on narrow and crowded city streets.

There are opportunities across the country to increase the use of household food waste disposers. AHAM research shows that food waste disposers are currently installed in slightly fewer than half of all households.

InSinkErator has published a white paper on its project,

“The Food Waste Disposer as a Municipal Tool for Waste Diversion: An Evaluation in Five Cities.”