Garbage Can or Garbage Disposal: Which Is Greener?


We all know that composting is the most eco-friendly way to get rid of leftover food scraps. But if you simply don’t have the space or time to maintain a household compost bin, you may be wondering what the next best way isthe trash can or your kitchen sink’s garbage disposal? Both disposal methods have their environmental drawbacks:

The Problem with the Garbage

It takes a lot of garbage trucks rumbling through neighborhoods to pick up the trash, spewing air pollution. Once the trucks dump your food scraps in a landfill, the scraps release methanea particularly potent greenhouse gasas they take decades to biodegrade in an oxygen-free environment.

The Problem with the Sink

It takes a lot of water to wash your leftovers from dinner down the drain through an in-sink garbage disposal, but it takes even more water to filter out food waste when it reaches a wastewater treatment facility. Clean water is valuable, and this process wastes a lot of it. Once the food scraps are separated, they’re generally shipped to the same place as garbage: the landfill. 

The Verdict: Toss It In the Trash

While neither disposal option is ideal, a vast amount of water is needed to process wastewater. Plus, waste removed from the water is often trucked to a landfill anyway, making garbage disposals a longer, more expensive route for food scraps than dumping them in the trash can. So if you can’t compost your food waste, use the trash.

What Else Can You Do? Reduce Your Food Waste

There’s something you can do in addition to choosing how to discard unwanted food: minimize the amount of food waste you create in the first place. If you find yourself scraping a lot of food off of plates, serve smaller portions. Consider making a meal plan each week to help you buy only the food you need, and use it before it spoils. Freeze leftovers and aging produce so they won’t go to waste, and challenge yourself to use them creatively. Learn more about food waste