Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Garbage vs Garbage Disposal
As always, Slate's Green Lantern offers an insightful and educational answer to the question: What's better for the environment - putting leftover food in the garbage disposal or throwing it in the garbage i.e. a landfill?
The answer isn't as simple as you may think. First off, my two cents is: try making more reasonable portions. Have you ever made dinner or had a party and said, "Gee, we should have had more food... I am starving! we are fresh out of everything!" I haven't. I'll tell you what I do hear all the time (and admit it, so do you), "Please take some of this home... we have so much food here... do you think [insert name of person who did not attend but lives with you] would like some leftover [cake, pasta salad, etc]."
Anywho, the Green Lantern addresses water filtration, contamination, and effects on aquatic life concluding that fatty and greasy foods are the most problematic if put through the in-sink-erator. However, that doesn't mean everything else we put in there is harmless. From the article:
Still, dumping waste into the water system has environmental costs. There is evidence that the effluent that is pumped back into local water streams does affect their chemical composition and aquatic life. In extreme cases, the result can be something called eutrophication, which occurs when a higher concentration of nutrients results in algae blooms...You'll also be using a lot more water if you decide to go with the disposal—and you'll be indirectly responsible for the extraction of the metal needed to make the appliance.
As far as using the garbage can:
On the other hand, it takes a considerable amount of energy to truck all that garbage from your curb to a landfill... The decomposition of your trash in the landfill will likely result in more damaging greenhouse gas emissions, since the breakdown of your food waste may produce methane so quickly that it can't be captured. By contrast, some wastewater-treatment systems are actually looking for more food solids, since that will make the process of converting waste into energy more efficient. And wastewater-treatment plants also provide a way to reuse leftover food as fertilizer—although critics have expressed concerns that the use of biosolids on land land may not always be safe.
In the end, the GL reminds that studies can be biased based on who is funding them, composting is always the best bet and if that isn't an option, the garbage disposal is the better than the garbage can as long as your community is not low on water and, as mentioned before, the food isn't too fatty/greasy.
Read the GL's entire response here.