Garberators: Terrifying or environmentally friendly?


Garberators might not be as evil as I thought.

The list of things that scare me is both varied and plentiful. One of those random things that has just always freaked me out is garberators. I always view that gaping maw with suspicion, like it is two seconds away from chopping off all of my fingers. This perception widely comes from a Fear Street book I read when I was young, where a possessed house did exactly that to someone. (Btw, if you’re interested in that book, or any of the Fear Street books, read the recap here, brought to you by some sisters who had too much time on their hands.)

Anyway, when I moved into my husbands apartment, I first viewed this contraption with a mix of distaste and fascination. So scary. And yet so convenient. All those potato peels just disappear! So garberators can’t be that bad.

It turns out, not bad at all. One really interesting thing I’ve learned by talking with trades people and plumbers over the past few years is that garberators are in fact … good for the environment. At first, I didn’t believe it. How could anything that is actually convenient be environmentally friendly? I thought all planet-saving endeavours were supposed to be costly and time-consuming, allowing you to feel really smug about going out of your way to help Mother Earth. Not so.

The short answer is our modern sewage systems are designed to deal with waste products like food scraps, and keeping them out of landfills reduces the amount of methane gas released into the atmosphere. Also, bio-fuels. Read on with my column from the Calgary Sun:

Initially designed for convenience (by cutting down on taking out the trash), it turns out garberators are also good for the environment (by cutting down on taking out the trash).

Garberators, or garbage waste disposal units, began 75 years ago by an architect in Wisconsin who didn’t want to take the trash out anymore, says Kendall Christiansen, lead environmental consultant for Insinkerator.

The disposer he created went on to become really popular during the post-war boom, especially in places like Western Canada and his company, Insinkerator, sells a large majority of the units. With approximately 60 million garberators in Canada and the U.S., it’s a standard household appliance, Christiansen says.

“Traditionally, garbage disposers are seen as appliances of convenience but are getting new attention for the environmental benefits they provide,” he says. “It comes down to a shift in thinking – what food scraps are by definition. Food is now being seen as a natural resource rather than garbage.”

Jason Chupik, president of Canyon Plumbing and Heating, sees how beneficial garberators can be to the planet. “Instead of going to the landfill, food waste that goes through a garberator is going to be treated at sewage treatment plants,” he says. “Food ends up being reused as fertilizer, rather than generating methane gas into the atmosphere.”

Christiansen looks at what food waste actually is – mostly water, 70% on average, he says. “Food waste is more liquid than solid. Modern waste water treatment plants are designed to recover water and process waste as bio-gas or fertilizer. It allows us to maximize resource recovery.”

Before anyone goes throwing out their composter, there is a caveat: a garberator does not replace a composter. But it can be used as a complementary tool, or for many urban dwellers, the only option other than the landfill.

“We are focused on increasing urban density, which means a lot of people in condos and apartments,” Chupik says. “Not everyone is going to be able to have a composter, so garberators provide a solution that is also extremely convenient.

“The most important thing is to keep food waste out of the garbage.”

Word of the day:

Pugnacious: inclined to quarrel or fight readily; quarrelsome; belligerent; combative.


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