Composting vs. Garbage Disposal: Which Is Better?
by Yalla Mediterranean
December 27, 2017

We’re all trying to do our part to keep the planet a little greener. None of us want to be intentionally wasteful and throw food in the garbage can every time something goes bad.

But life happens. Sometimes we forget we bought something and we accidentally let it go bad in the fridge. Or sometimes we make way too much dinner, and it goes bad before we can finish it. And haven’t we all experimented with a new recipe, only to find out that it definitely is not for us?

What are we to do in these situations? We need to dispose of our food somehow. The shocking fact is that 40 percent of the food produced in the U.S. gets wasted. Of course, it doesn’t feel like that when you’re just scraping your last few spoonfuls of dinner into the trash. But if everyone in the country does that, it isn’t hard to imagine how quickly the waste can build up.

Thankfully, there are a few good options besides just throwing old or unwanted food in the garbage pail. We can use a garbage disposal, or we can compost the food. Sometimes, we can even choose a combination of these two methods.

To help you better understand the options available to you, let’s go over these two methods of food disposal and look at the benefits each one offers.

composting vs garbage disposal

What Is Composting?

Composting is an easy, do-it-yourself project truly anyone can manage. It might be slightly more difficult for some people who live in close, urban areas, but it’s still possible.

If you live in the country or any other setting where you have ample yard space, the process is as follows:

  1. Start With Bare Earth

Find a piece of earth that’s bare of any grass or plants on which to build your compost pile. This allows worms and other helpful bugs and organisms to aerate the pile. It also helps to lay down twigs or straw to get your pile started. Aim for making this layer a few inches deep, so it can help with the pile’s drainage.

  1. Layer in Composting Materials

A good rule of thumb is that you should alternate between moist and dry levels. Moist ingredients might be food scraps, seaweed, tea bags and anything else with a high moisture content. Dry ingredients might be sawdust, straw, leaves or wood ashes.

  1. Add Manure

In this case, manure refers to green manure. For those unfamiliar with the term, this means things like grass clippings, clover, buckwheat or wheatgrass. These elements serve as a great source of nitrogen and help speed the composting process along.

  1. Water and Keep Covered

Your compost pile needs to stay moist. That means you can either water it by hand, or you can just let the rain take care of it. Most likely, your decision will be based on how much rain you get. Keep in mind that the pile should be moist, but not soaked. This means you’ll occasionally need to cover it to prevent it from getting too wet. This covering can be anything from plastic sheeting to wood, and will serve the additional purpose of locking in heat to help the composting process.

  1. Keep Turning

You’ll need to give the pile a quick turn with a shovel or pitchfork every several weeks. This helps aerate the pile and gives oxygen to the compost materials. Because oxygen is a crucial component of composting, this step is very important, and you can’t overlook it.

Once your compost pile is well-established, you don’t have to worry about things like layering in ingredients. Instead, you can just throw them on top and let them be naturally mixed in when you complete your regular turns of the pile.

  1. Buy a Composter

Of course, not everyone has access to a large backyard where they can comfortably put a compost pile. Sometimes we live in tiny city apartments and just don’t have that option. If that’s you, you still have a composting option, and that is to buy a composter. There are plenty of different options and styles available, and some ways you can even build your own.

Composting: The Pros

“Why should I compost?” After reading about the process of composting, you might be thinking it sounds like a lot of work and wondering why you should even bother.

Of course, people wouldn’t do it if there weren’t a whole host of benefits that come along with it. Let’s look at a few of these benefits and discover why so many people are devoting their time and energy toward creating a successful composting operation.

  • It’s Great for the Earth

When it comes to food waste, the best solution is to waste less. But if you have waste and need to dispose of it, composting is the most environmentally friendly option available. It takes your natural food waste and turns it into super-dirt that’s incredibly rich in nutrients.

  • It Reduces the Need for Chemicals

When you compost, you’re essentially creating your own plant food. You’ll no longer have to purchase bottles and containers of synthetic fertilizers and chemicals, because you’re producing your own. Your compost materials will do wonders for a flower or vegetable garden. The environment will also naturally benefit from less exposure to synthetically produced fertilizers and plant foods.

  • It Saves You Money

Composting is also great for your budget, since you’ll no longer have to spend money on chemicals and plant food. Even if you do still want to supplement your garden with some of these store-bought products, you won’t need nearly as much as you would without the compost material. It might also save you money by allowing you to reduce your garbage service — maybe you only need the trash picked up every other week, instead of every week.

40 percent of food gets wasted

Composting: The Cons

Of course, no matter how beneficial something is, there are always a few drawbacks. Let’s look at a few of the reasons people might decide composting isn’t the right choice for them.

  • It Can Be a Hassle

Composting genuinely isn’t a ton of work, but it’s still more work than just sliding food in the trash or a garbage disposal. Everyone has a busy life and a hectic schedule. If you’re constantly running from one thing to the next, you just might not realistically have time to carefully cultivate a healthy compost pile.

  • It Takes Space

As we mentioned previously, composting is easiest when you have a big yard that can easily accommodate a compost pile. If you have a small yard, you might not want to clutter up a corner or your precious space with a compost heap. Even though there are indoor options, these also take up space in a kitchen or mudroom many people just may not have room for.

  • It Can’t Accommodate Everything

There are some things you can’t compost, like meat, fish, dairy products or fat. Because of this, some people may find it inconvenient to separate waste and scraps into different categories and receptacles. This extra hassle might just seem like too much effort.

What Is a Garbage Disposal?

When it comes to disposing of food scraps without throwing them in the trash bin, your other major option is the garbage disposal. This is a small, motorized device that’s usually installed beneath the kitchen sink between the trap and the drain.

Whenever food goes down the drain, you can use the disposal to grind and shred anything solid into pieces small enough to pass through the plumbing and get processed with the rest of the household’s wastewater.

composting is environmentally friendly

Garbage Disposals: The Pros

Why use a garbage disposal? These appliances are becoming hugely popular, especially in the U.S. Let’s look at just a few of the reasons people love having this handy tool in their sinks.

  • They’re Good for the Environment

Sure, garbage disposals aren’t quite as directly beneficial as a compost heap, but they’re still miles better than a garbage can and a landfill. Not only are you preventing food scraps from ending up in landfills, but you’re also cutting down on things like fuel emissions that come from driving garbage trucks.

  • It’s Convenient

It doesn’t get any more convenient than this. Just scrape food scraps into the sink, flick the switch and watch them get sucked down into the processor. It takes no more work than it would to scrape these same leftovers into a garbage can. The only trick is getting in the habit and remembering to use your disposal.

  • It Doesn’t Take up Any Extra Space

Whether you live in the country, in the city, an apartment or a house, it doesn’t matter. There’s no need to worry about finding yard space, and you don’t have to struggle to find an out-of-the-way place to stash a unit. The garbage disposal is built directly into your sink. This means it will never be in your way and you’ll never be tripping over it or worrying where to hide it. This is a huge advantage, especially for those with no yard and limited indoor space.

  • It’s Cheap

A garbage disposal is a one-time purchase. Unless you put too much down the disposal at once and clog up your drain, you don’t need to pay any fees or buy special supplies to maintain it. And while you may not be able to cancel your garbage service altogether, you certainly might be able to reduce it and save yourself some money.

Garbage Disposals: The Cons

Nothing is without its flaws, and the garbage disposal is no different. As easy and convenient as it is, it does present some unmistakable drawbacks.

  • It Isn’t the Greenest Option

This is the natural flip side of one of the pros. Even though a garbage disposal is certainly better than a trash can, it still can’t compare with the eco-friendliness of returning your scraps straight to the earth. The food you put down the drain will still be processed by treatment plants and water systems that emit fumes and chemicals and will contribute to the waste in the ground and waterways.

  • It Uses More Energy

Because disposals run on electricity, they do necessarily use more energy than something like composting or even a garbage can.

  • There’s An Increased Risk of Accidents

This is a bit of a long shot, but it’s enough of a possibility that it causes some people some real anxiety and causes them to look for other options. Imagine you’re washing dishes, and a spoon, a water bottle straw or something else small slips down the drain. You flip the switch to grind up the food and hear a horrible grating noise. Not only will this potentially ruin your disposal, but it will ruin whatever was accidentally put down the drain, as well.

Losing a spoon may not seem like a big deal, but what if it’s an engagement ring that slides down the drain? What if a young child decides to put their fingers down the drain? The risk of accident is present here in a way it isn’t with regular garbage or composting.

garbage disposal are helpful too

How Are Composting and Garbage Disposals Different?

As you can see, both of these practices have a lot of things in common. They’re both much better for the earth than traditional waste disposal methods like a garbage bin. They’re both more responsible ways to get rid of wasted food. And they both have the potential to save you some money.

But how are they different?

At the end of the day, composting is better for the environment. A garbage disposal is still a step up from just chucking food in the trash, but it isn’t quite as eco-friendly as composting.

Another difference between the two is the space required. Composting requires either a plot of ground outside or a space indoors, most likely in the kitchen. Garbage disposals are built in and don’t require any extra space.

How Should You Decide Which Is Better for You?

Each option comes with benefits and drawbacks. As you set about deciding which option will suit your needs better, it will be helpful to look at this list and determine which qualities are the most important to you. Ask yourself what you’re most looking for.

For example, you might ask yourself how much space you have to work with. If you are short on useable space, the benefit of the garbage disposal’s built-in nature might outweigh the drawback of it being slightly less environmentally friendly. Or, perhaps you have a family of small children who might be at risk for sticking their hands down the drain. In that case, you might prefer the safety and security of a compost pile that will never hurt anyone.

garbage disposal and composting both responsible

Visit Yalla Mediterranean

Composting and garbage disposals are both great, responsible ways to manage the food waste we produce. But the most responsible thing of all to do is to simply waste less food. That includes shopping responsibly, buying foods you know you’ll eat and not cooking more than you need. It also includes going out to eat at delicious restaurants whose food is so good you’ll never want to waste a single bite of it.

Stop by Yalla Mediterranean today to try our authentic Mediterranean cuisine. Feel like eating in tonight? Don’t worry — we offer takeout too! Check out our menu and find something delicious for dinner tonight.