How Does A Garbage Disposal Work?

Most of us have a garbage disposal in our house, and we can’t live without it. I mean, they make your work way easier. The cleaning process after you have taken or prepared your meals is a breeze.

What’s more, you won’t have to keep the food remains in the kitchen garbage. Therefore, there won’t be a bacterial formation in the kitchen. Usually, when you leave the food waste garbage in the kitchen for a day or two, it begins to smell. It will further start developing molds and bacteria.

Well, you don’t have to deal with the same when you have a garbage disposal as it grinds it as soon as you wish. Since it’s a vital appliance for the kitchen use, do you ever wonder how it works?

For most of us, the only realistic picture we have is that it works the same way as the blender does. Well, let’s use this article to understand it better.

Inside of A Garbage Disposal

Garbage Disposal cross section


The garbage disposal has many parts, all of which are vital for the functionality of the gadget. But essential pieces of the disposal are its inner parts. They are the ones that do the grinding work, and when they jam then the whole disposer won’t work.

Splash guard

Although this is not shown in the diagram above, it’s quite vital, especially for the continuous feed garbage disposal. For those without the splash guard, the sink has typically the rubber flaps that act as the splash guard.

The essence of the splash guard is to ensure that dirty water and food mix doesn’t splash out and back to the sink. This is, therefore, the passage to the garbage disposal.

The stopper

This is the part that is the topmost part of the disposer, and you can see it when you look into the drainage of the sink. When you put food into the disposer, it’s the first part of the disposer to touch it.

It’s the passage to the other internal parts like the chamber. The way it works is that it opens and closes to allow the food in.

Sink flange: just under the stopper we have the sink flange that’s attached to both the hopper and the stopper. It’s circular, and it features an open gasket. It offers support to the garbage disposal.

The hopper

Once you deposit the food into the disposer, it will go to the upper hopper. So, then they are pushed in together with the water that is running into the chamber. This chamber takes the image of an upside-down sink drain.

The essence of this part is to push the food down to the shredder for the grinding business. It’s under the stopper, but you can’t see it unless you open the other parts before. Now, there’s a connection between the hopper and the stopper switch.

The dishwasher drainage is also connected to the hopper, and it brings its wastewater into the disposer through the trash inlet. The hopper is the first significant part of the disposer that is essential for the passage of the waste. It ends at the clamping ring.

Notice that we have the upper and lower hopper chambers. The essence of the top hopper is to collect the food waste before taking them down to the shredder.

The lower hopper has the insulation line. It’s the part that carries the disposal motors. This is where the magic happens. You know the grinding of the food takes place in this part. It’s then connected to the waste line that lets the waste out.

That makes it an essential part of the disposer unit.

The motor

This is another vital part of the disposer. Its essence is to rotate the wheels between the range of 1725-2800RPM. So, it works when it rotates the flywheel and impellers to a set RPM to work on the food waste.

The garbage disposal will further work at a horsepower of 1/3 – 10 HP. The range difference depends on whether the garbage disposal is for commercial purpose or home use. For home use though it will range between 1/3 – 1HP.

The disposal motor is then connected to the impellers.

The shredders and flywheels

These parts work together to grind the waste.

The flywheels and shredder rings are between the lower and upper hopper. The flywheel is located at the bottom of the shredder ring. It’s the rotating metal spinner that has a duty to catch the food and work on it before letting it go to the lower hopper.

It will grind the food to tiny particles before it lets it out. It has two impellers on its sides. When you switch on the motor, it begins to rotate the wheels. It grinds the food waste and using the centrifugal force it lets it out through the small holes situated on the sides of the shredder ring.

So, when the food goes into the upper hopper, the spinning of the wheel forces the food to move to the shredder ring.

The shredder ring is an open part that’s also circular, and it rotates to thrust the food waste to the impellers. They work together to break down the food particles to tiny particles.

On the inner part of the shredder, you will find the tiny groves to help in the grinding process. They are the ones that will break down the food in the flywheel even more. Thus, it won’t pass through until its adequately tiny particles.

The impellers

Basically, the impellers are the blades that literary finish off the grinding. The impellers, together with the flywheel, spin the food. They will then push the food chunks to the shredder grooves consistently. The essence is to grind it to the tiniest level possible.

Once it becomes very tiny, then it will seep through the openings on the shredder rind and into the drain pipes. The holes are quite small that the food particles can’t flow through unless it’s broken down to the tiniest pieces.

This sums up the grinding process, but they go down to the waste line.

Waste line

The last step to this process is the waste line. Once the waste is manageable, it goes down to the waste line. It goes through the waste line connector that you will find in the lower hopper. So, the food particles that go through the shredder goes into the connector.

From here, with the help of the running water, it goes into the through the shredder and into the waste line connector then to the drain pipes. The drain pipe will then send the food waste to the sewer system.

Vital Tips for Making It Work Longer for You

Well, although it takes on the dirty work, the garbage disposal is delicate. For you to use it for longer, you need to consider the following tips.

Run it regularly

If you buy it and never use it for several weeks, it will jam, begin to rust and sometimes even smell. Therefore, if you are not using it, maybe you should remove it altogether. Otherwise, it will freeze up, rust and all other things mentioned above.

The same way you can’t leave your car outside for years without starting it and expect it to run is the same way you can’t leave the disposal.

Even when you don’t have anything to grind, run the water and turn the disposer on for a few minutes.

Cut the waste into even smaller pieces

For it to work effective and fast, cut the scrap to even tinier pieces. This will help the impellers to work on it faster and efficiently. The impellers aren’t as big as you may think; therefore, you should help it work efficiently.

Consider putting a little bit of waste at a time if you don’t want to clog it or enhance the chances of it jamming. You should always avoid overworking it.

Always use cold water

Well, while the hot water is great when it comes to cleaning most of the gadgets in the kitchen, it’s not the disposer’s friend. The reason is that it will quickly melt the food waste and make little bits of it stick on its sides.

But the cold water will keep the food hard and grind it with ease. Sadly, when the food waste, especially fatty food sticks on the sides of the disposal, it’s only a matter of time before there are clogs and build-up.

Remember to run the disposal a little longer

When grinding the waste, you may be tempted to switch it off immediately it finishes the grinding. But when you wish to clean and clear the trash completely, you should let it grind it for a few more seconds.

The running water usually helps to clean the garbage disposal. But you can add on some soapy water to give it a daily thorough clean. Also, it will prevent bad odor.

Grind some citrus rinds

The one problem we have with garbage disposal is the lousy odor every once in a while. That’s why you need to grind the citrus rinds to deodorize it. Alternatively, you could use an aerator to keep it smelling fresh.


  • Never stick your fingers in the disposal as its grinding, or you risk grinding your hands too.
  • Remember to use enough water for the process. If you don’t use enough water, then you won’t help wash away the food waste to the sewer system.

Where Does All the Garbage Disposal Waste Go?

The garbage disposal debate is outrightly divisive. Some people and societies love them, but some local communities don’t at all love them. We will get down to why some people don’t like it at all.

But first, where does the waste go?

For most of us, we would want to believe that this is a green option that will reduce the need to discard the waste into the landfills. Often the waste is ground to the liquid state and then sent to the water treatment plant.

Thus, if you have a septic system, the liquid waste from the disposer is drained into it then after processing it does to the local water plant system. In this case, you have no choice but to dispose of only certain food waste.

You can’t dispose of the grease, fat, pasta and rice. They are notorious for clogging the drainage. Also, you must drop in hard bones or fruit pits as they might damage the shredding impellers and grooves.

After the liquid reaches the water plant treatment, another process begins. The water treatment plant then separates the solid waste from the liquid. The plant sends some of the solid waste to the digester tank, which works almost the same way as the septic tank does.

It has the bacteria which works on the waste to form biosolids and methane gas, both of which are vital end products.  The bacteria breakdown procedure is called the anaerobic digestion.

For those localities that are so concerned about the environment, you use the biosolids as fertilizers and methane gas for energy production. Nonetheless, other plants send waste to the landfills.

Truth be told, if your local water plant converts the waste into fertilizer and energy, this is the best option to go by. However, if it still discards it to the landfills, then it beats the logic of all the work. This leads us to the question

Are Garbage Disposals Good for You?

Well, this has been a debate for so many years. Both ends believe they are right. Some believe that the garbage disposal is a must-have while others say it’s harmful to the environment. Well, I will break it down for you but then let you choose the side you think is best.

Why Am I Pro Garbage Disposal?


We should all agree on this point if not any other; that tossing the waste to the garbage disposal is much easier than when you have to keep it in the trash can. This helps you maintain a clean and fresh kitchen environment.

It makes it easy to keep a hygiene environment. You wouldn’t have to worry about the possible growth of bacteria and maggot if you forgot the trash can in the house for a few days. It further makes you work easier as you don’t need to sort the waste from the dirty utensils.

The garbage disposal will make the kitchen environment a friendly environment and inviting for anyone to cook.

Reduce waste

For anyone concerned about our environment, you know that we are mostly encouraged to reduce waste. Well, if you aren’t able to reduce the kitchen waste, the garbage disposal will cut it for you.

Normally, without a disposer, you may have to take out the trash daily if you are an average family. The garbage collector takes the waste to the landfills, and as we all know our landfills are overfilled. We are therefore looking for ways to handle the waste.

Well, garbage disposal reduces the waste you take to the landfills. Using it you will realize that the amount of waste you get rid of at a time is minimal. For me, it has literary cut my waste to half. I’m happy about the process because I’m a part of the waste reduction movement.

The recycling process

Well from the previous subtopic we learned where most of the waste we toss in the garbage disposal goes. Thankfully my local water plant system is so organized and green-oriented that it turns the biosolids to fertilizers, methane to energy and the water recycled.

I don’t know about your local methods of operation, but mine makes me happy. With this, we are sure that the next generation is safe. If something as simple as garbage disposal will keep the environment safe, then why not.

I always used the compost method. While it was perfect, it entails too much commitment than when you use a disposer.

You choose what you put in it

This is self-explanatory since you can’t just put anything in it. If you put everything in it, you will either damage it sooner or always has to call your plumber. Even if it’s all food waste, you should avoid putting oil and grease, fibrous food, potato peels, and hard bones in.

Some of those food items will stop the process of fertilizer formation. They also may lead to clogging and jamming.

In summary, if you who support it the garbage disposal you are mostly looking at the advantages.

Not for The Garbage Disposals

Several people don’t support the use of garbage disposals. Let’s find out why.

Water treatment centers

For most people, the primary concern is the with the weight put unto the water treatment plants. The garbage disposal weighs down the plants according to them. It involves a whole step where you have to filter the solid waste.

The system is then forced to create the fertilizer out of the solid waste and energy out of the methane gas. Well, this sounds good to me, but it’s only useful if your local city has enough water. In fact, if there’s minimal water you should never use the garbage disposal.

Too much work

If your local city doesn’t have a method to make use of the end products created by the water plant, then it beats the logic of having a disposer. Note that if your waste will still end up in the landfills, isn’t it just double work?

For me, unless the local city has a way to utilize the waste, then I don’t see the need of using a garbage disposal. I can use the compost system instead. Listen, taking the end product to the landfill is more damaging as it will lead to more greenhouse gas emission.

Sadly, in depositing the bi-product back to the landfills, you tamper with the decomposition process. In fact, some of the gases produced don’t allow even the food waste that isn’t from the plant to decompose.

Environmental hazards

Well, even for some champions of the garbage disposal, there are significant concerns when it comes to the environment risks.

First, by pumping the water back to the plant for recycling, we mess up with the aquatic life. This happens because the nitrates found in the waste water will encourage the algae bloom. If you have seen the effects of this you will know you don’t need it. They suffocate marine life.

The drainage system

The significant contribution to the clogs in the local drainages is food waste. Since more and more people will release the food waste to the plants, the local city experiences more clogs. The money you spend on unclogging the drainages is too much.

Imagine if your city has to spend millions of dollars on unclogging the pipes. This is not as realistic.

For those who are anti garbage disposals, they say that the whole process is quite expensive.

This topic leads us to the initial question;

Do You Need A Garbage Disposal?

In my opinion, if your local city is:

  • Changing the waste to fertilizer and recycling the water
  • It has a lot of water, and it never runs low on water.
  • If you don’t put the things you are told not to in the garbage disposal
  • And if the treatment center has ways to change the methane gas to energy.

You have every reason to use the garbage disposal but if not then don’t use it. In fact, most people suggest you should instead use the compost method.

Other methods of reducing waste include:

Reducing waste

Reducing waste is the best as you only buy the food you know you will finish. Ensure you have the food you can finish before it eventually gets spoilt. This makes it easier than making a lot of waste then finding green options to get rid of it.


The traditional method is to compost the waste. Well, we are a generation that loves quick fixes, and while the garbage disposal works fast, the compost is better.


Garbage disposal is the new big thing that we all need somehow. Once you understand how it works you will make even more use of it. Remember the key to having it serve you for a long time is in cleaning and maintenance.