Popularity of food waste disposers is growing in the UK. Households in the USA and Australia treat them as a necessity but what is their impact on the environment and local services in the UK.
Food waste disposers (FWD) work by shredding the food waste into small pieces that then join the general water waste stream.
The powerful rotary blade will grind the foods that previously had to be disposed in a general food waste recycling bin or composted in a garden.
The biggest challenge for urban household is recycling. Small houses can only hold a number of bins and most Councils encourage people to segregate their waste into a general, plastic/aluminium/paper, glass and food waste bins. With the rubbish collection services running every second week, the prospect of holding 2 weeks of raw food waste in your home is simply daunting. To avoid the wait, people can use communal food waste bins located in areas where people do not have individual bins allocated.
For households with gardens, many Councils encourage people to compost their food waste and offer subsidised compost bins. Not only this form of food waste recycling allows people to make their own compost, it is environmentally friendly and it also reduces the cost of waste collection that local Councils face.
An argument against the FWD would be that by putting your food waste into the sewage system we shift responsibility for dealing with the waste onto water suppliers rather than local Councils. But this concern has been confronted with the positive effect it brings.
"Water companies are understandably concerned about changes that might adversely affect demands on water resources or that would increase sewer blockages; field trials in several countries have shown that FWD do not affect water usage or accumulation in sewers significantly. Wastewater treatment works (WwTW) are designed to treat biodegradable material suspended in water, i.e. similar to the output of FWD. Ground KFW has been found actually to improve the composition of wastewater for the advanced nutrient removal processes that are now being demanded of WwTW."*
Historically, WwTW were required to remove suspended solids, biological oxygen demand (BOD) and ammonia from the water. To complete the process WwTW had to purchase additional carbon and a chemical compound. Increased food waste, due to fermentation, adds carbon assisting with BOD.
Overall, FWD have been found cost effective, convenient and hygienic. According to estimates, it adds approximately 3-4 kWh a year. Additional water required, when using FWD, will not affect most of the domestic households in the UK as the water rates are estimated and come off Council taxes. However, if this is not the case, it is worth taking into consideration an additional cost this brings.
FWD, available on the market are usually split into price brackets of power of a motor and noise categories and, like with any purchase, it is advised to find the one that suits our needs best.
* Environmental Impact Study of Food Waste Disposers for Herefordshire Council and Worcestershire County Council by Dr Tim Evans BSc MS PhD CChem CEnv FCIWEM MRSC Synopsis by J Howell-Thomas, Worcestershire County Council
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