Disposing of Foodie Scraps

A garbage disposal is one my favorite appliances in the kitchen. Does that sound weird coming from a Foodie? Why not a food processor or a slow cooker? Let me tell you why. I don’t consider having a garbage disposal a luxury. It’s just part of my mindset regarding stewardship of our environment.

I can be cranky thinking I’m sending stuff to the landfill, even if it’s supposedly biodegradable. Think about it: you stuff your garbage in a bag and take it to the dumpster. Your trash company takes it away and, ultimately, that plastic bag ends up in a landfill. I’m not a scientist, but I’m guessing it takes a little longer for the food to break down when it’s in a plastic bag.

Leaning heavily on the side of recycling, I’d rather send something into a waste treatment plant than onto a garbage truck. Getting washed away in this manner means someone’s actually keeping an eye on water quality and ground waters.

Since I’ve had a disposal for so long, I thought I knew all there was to know about using one. But I discovered some tips and habits that I can put into practice which I formerly haven’t used.

Veering from the usual recipes and cooking tips, here’s a list of things you should know about using your garbage disposal. I hope this list will be useful for you. If you don’t already have a garbage disposal, perhaps you’ll consider installing one.

  • Large pieces of food should not be put down the disposal. Cut food into smallish pieces and feed them into the disposal gradually with cold water running constantly.
  • Don’t turn off the water while the disposal is running. Wait until grinding is complete. When grinding is complete, turn off the disposal and let the water run for another 15 seconds.

Keeping the Disposal Clean

  1. Something you can do to keep the disposal clean is to periodically pour a little dish soap down it and run cold water while running the disposal as you would to grind food. If you wash dishes in the sink, that’s a good time to do it.
  2. Run the disposal regularly; it prevents corrosion and obstructions.
  3. Grind certain hard materials such as small chicken bones, fish bones, egg shells, ice, etc. It causes a scouring action and prevents food from building up around the walls of the disposal. However, do not put large bones down the disposal. Only fine bones and only occasionally.
  4. Borax is a natural cleaner with many uses around the home and is a good product for cleaning the disposal. It can be found in the aisle with detergents and cleaning products.
  5. Don’t use harsh chemicals like bleach or drain cleaners in your disposal. They can damage the drains and pipes.

The “Don’t” List

  1. Don’t put anything down the disposal that’s not a biodegradable food. This includes non-food items like glass, plastic, metal, paper, anything combustible, cigarette butts, etc.
  2. Do not put coffee grounds down the garbage disposal. They do not harm the disposal, but could clog drains and pipes.
  3. Don’t put ‘expandable’ foods like pasta and rice down the disposal. When they expand as water is run down the sink, they create one of the biggest causes for repairs.
  4. Do not pour grease, oil, or naturally occurring fat in a food into your disposal or drain. This includes the fat on cuts of meat. Fats will slowly accumulate and impede the disposal’s grinding ability as well as clog drains.
  5. Too many potato peels put down the disposal create a thick paste because of the starch in the potato. This causes the blades to stick so don’t put too many down the disposal at one time. If you’re preparing a lot of potatoes, put the bulk of the peelings in the trash.
  6. Do not grind fibrous material like corn husks, celery stalks, onion skins and artichokes. Fibers from these can tangle and jam the motor.

I hadn’t always thought about how to care for a garbage disposal until I needed to call someone to come repair it or get it unstuck. Remember that someone who knows how to do the job should be the person to do so.

If you hear a nasty sound coming from the disposal, turn it off immediately. It goes without saying you should never put your hands down a disposal that has not stopped spinning. If you go to retrieve something which has gone down the sink (usually a spoon or something else small) carefully move your hand around the blades. You can prevent things from going down the sink in the first place by using a mesh strainer. They’re easy to find and usually inexpensive.

Do you have tips for using a garbage disposal which I may have left out?

 

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