Rethinking the Garbage Disposal, Food is Not Waste

A garbage disposal is very convenient. With a flip of a switch, all food waste is gone down the drain. I have not had a garbage disposal in my kitchen for more than 4 years and I really don’t miss it. When looking for pictures for this article, I was surprised to find that I had actually forgotten what a garbage disposal drain looks like! And I forgot about the problems they have: from causing backed up drains to “eating” valuable objects like wedding rings that have accidentally been dropped down the hole. In my opinion, a garbage disposal is a pretty worthless kitchen appliance.

I’m not trying to judge anyone for using this kitchen tool. I’ve relied on it in the past, but I’m thankful that I have learned to live without it. I have come to understand that getting rid of what is called “food waste” is actually pretty wasteful! There are so many uses for it! From feeding chickens to generating compost, we use kitchen scraps to our benefit on our homestead.

There are a few little tips to learn when first going disposal free.

  1. Scrape your dishes. It’s pretty simple. Instead of washing food down the drain, scrape it into your compost bin or trash.  I’ll give more detail below.
  2. Rinse your dishes for any leftover little bits. I really don’t like washing dishes in a sink full of food scraps floating around. I like my wash water to be as clean as possible to get my dishes sparkling! So I always pre-rinse. I don’t have running water, so I do this by having a sink of water that I have already used for something. Maybe it was my leftover rinse water from my last dish washing, or perhaps I used water to wash veggies for dinner. Whatever it is, I save the water for cleanup and always rinse my dishes before washing.
  3. SINK-STRAINER-STOPPERCatch any extra food scraps from the pre-rinse and/or dishwashing water with a sink strainer and stopper. You want one that lets the water out of the sink while keeping the food scraps in the drain. I recently bought this one at Walmart for $1. It works pretty well, but I would eventually like to get a really good one. I have already worn out the ones that my sink came with because I use them every day, multiple times a day. I always try to keep as many food particles as possible in the strainer. Food can build up over time and cause problems by blocking your pipes, or at the very least create a slow running drain. We use a grease trap to separate our gray water from grease and food particles. The more food particles that are deposited in it, the more often we have to clean it out, which is a messy and stinky job.

To save my sanity and keep from picking through all my food scraps and dividing them into several different containers, I try to keep it simple. I have one small compost pot on my counter for fruits, vegetables, egg shells, and coffee grounds. These are the most important foods to save to allow them to “work” for you.

  1. Our red wiggler worms get most of our raw fruit and vegetable scraps. red-wigglersThey make worm castings (poop) for our garden. It provides all kinds of beneficial nutrients for the soil and plants. I generally dump my kitchen compost pot in the worm bin, but if the pot contains things that the worms shouldn’t have, like citrus fruits and eggshells (they can’t break them down), I take it to our compost bin. Again, I don’t bother separating. The compost is working for us, either way.
  2. Our compost bin contains kitchen scraps, coffee grounds, egg shells and plant scraps from the garden. In around 40 days, it can be broken down and be usable compost for the garden.
  3. Our chickens get cooked food scraps and raw meat. My family generally eats most of what is on their chickens2plates or we have it for leftovers. Sometimes I have a spoonful of food that gets scraped off the plates after dinner. I just put this in the trash. It’s not worth it to me to save a spoonful of food to feed the chickens the next day. After all, it’s going to draw rodents and bugs. If I have leftovers that have not been eaten, then I will take them to the chickens. Chickens can eat most kitchen scraps except for potatoes, onions, garlic, and any fried food. Those things are not good for a chicken’s health because they can affect its digestion. If I have those things to throw away, I set them aside for our cat.
  4. Chicken bones, fried food, and anything else that I don’t want to give the chickens, goes to our farm kitty who is usually sleeping or playing close by.
  5. If the cat turns up her nose, the scraps either go in the trash can or out in the woods to be eaten by a raccoon.

For more information, watch our video on how we use our compost on our homestead.

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About JaimieB

Jaimie lives with her husband on their off-grid homestead known online as An American Homestead. They live with their two sons and her parents Tim and Joann on 50 acres located deep in the American Ozark Mountains.

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  1. Nice article, we also use chickens and dogs for garbage disposers. One word of caution, do not leave food to attract coons or other varmints, as they will get into your chickens. Chickens can eat cooked potatoes.

  2. We have a food disposal, too I only use it for small pieces. We have a city food container , that picks up once a month all our scraps and lawn waste. We don’t have room to compost, I wish we had a larger area to do this. We have friends, who own a worm farm it is so neat to see it from start to finish and to get a bottle of the worm juice.

  3. I believe it was from the internet reading about Coors reuse of waste that I came across this gem and it has stuck with me a long time…”Waste is a Resource Out of Place”. Love it. We compost directly into the garden beds we plan on using ‘next year’ as we make new ones, or a garden bed we have left dormant for a year so as to allow the land to rest. I think of this saying as I pick thru the trash in the house before it goes out…toilet paper rolls are saved and put in the compost bin, some things are put into the woodstove as ‘starter paper’, etc. ~~Patty

  4. Would you please share a link for where you purchased the worm farm? Thanks!

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