Garbage disposals are a handy addition to your kitchen, allowing you to flush small food scraps down the drain rather than meticulously picking them out. They work well when you use a public sewer system, but when you use a septic system, it gets a little tricky.
While you can install a garbage disposal in one of your sinks, if you’re using a septic system, this may not be the best idea.
Are Garbage Disposals Bad For Septic Systems?
Garbage disposals can be bad for your septic system if you don’t take the proper precautions. If you are careful about what you put down the drain, your septic system may be just fine. However, if you put non-degradable items into your septic system, you could cause the disposal unit to malfunction, clog your pipes, or cause a backup to your septic tank.
There are three layers in a septic tank: aqueous waste, scum and solids. The solids sink to the bottom, the liquid waste stays in the middle, and the scum (grease, fat, oil) rises to the top. The septic tank operates using a delicate balance of bacteria. If the balance is upset (large amounts of food waste in the septic system), you can run into all sorts of problems, which can be very expensive. If you want to be safe, don’t use a garbage disposal in your septic system.
What Should Not Be Put In A Garbage Disposal With A Septic Tank?
Whether you have a septic tank or not, there are a few things that should not be put in your garbage disposal. Here are some things you should never put in your garbage disposal
- Small toys
- Plastic items
- Any other non-food items
You may look at a few of the items on your list and wonder how they could possibly end up in your sink and, by extension, in your garbage disposal. However, if you have children, you probably have a pretty good idea of how these items get into your sink and then magically disappear down the drain with the dreaded grinding sound.
As a general rule of thumb, you should not use your trash disposal to grind any non-food items. Glass, plastic, metal, paper and other non-food materials can damage your system and lead to costly plumbing repairs.
What Food Scraps Can Be Put In The Garbage Disposal?
Usually, small, biodegradable food scraps in your sink are ready to be put down the drain with garbage disposal. However, if you have large food scraps, we recommend throwing them away or putting them down the drain after breaking them into smaller pieces.
If you have a septic system, there are certain food scraps that should not go down your garbage disposal. These items include
- Coffee grounds. For the most part, coffee grounds are super fine. However, they tend to form a sticky paste when brewed, which can clog your drain.
- Pasta, bread and rice. These foods tend to absorb water and swell in the pipes, causing clogs.
- Fruit kernels and seeds. These are usually too hard for your trash disposal blade to handle, so don’t send them down the drain.
- Larger animal bones. If a few tiny fish bones make it through the trash disposal, you’ll probably be fine. However, with larger animal bones, your garbage disposal blade may not be able to grind them.
- Shells or nuts. These are one of two things: either they are too hard for the system to grind, or they are too soft and produce a paste-like substance that clogs the pipes.
- Eggshells, grated vegetables, onion layers. Fibrous substances, such as corn husks, eggshells, onion layers and celery, can be a nightmare for your garbage disposal. They can get tangled up in the system instead of grinding down and causing problems.
Do You Need A Special Garbage Disposal For Your Septic System?
Many brands offer trash disposals, including Moen, ACE and Waste King. In addition to regular everyday garbage disposals that work well on public sewer systems, many brands offer septic tank-assisted garbage disposals. You can find several varieties of garbage disposals at your local hardware or home improvement stores, such as Lowe’s or Home Depot.
Technically, you don’t have to buy a septic-assisted trash disposal. However, they can provide additional security for your septic tank, which can be helpful in the long run. Garbage disposal designed with the septic system in mind can help avoid unnecessary complications.
Septic-assisted garbage disposals are infused with natural microorganisms that help break down the food scraps that end up in the septic tank. However, they are not the only option. You can also choose a trash disposal that has excellent grinding action and a high RPM (revolutions per minute). These garbage disposals grind food waste into tiny particles that are just fine in your standard septic system.
However, whether you purchase a septic aid or an impressive RPM garbage disposal, you should try to avoid grinding too much food. While these garbage disposal models help mitigate some of the risks, the risks are still prevalent.
Can You Use A Well To Dispose Of Your Waste?
If you have a septic system, you probably have a well as well. People who live in rural areas usually have both systems because there is no public water or sewer system. The septic system is where the wastewater from your home is ultimately discharged, and the well is usually where you get your water, although the well also has a system (including a cistern).
Since the well is where you get your water, it shouldn’t matter if you have a garbage disposal or not. The main issue with garbage disposals and septic systems is where the waste ends up and whether the system can handle it. The process doesn’t carry anything to the well, so you should be fine.
You have to be very careful that there is some distance between the well and the septic tank because contamination between the two can be deadly. However, the answer to the question of trash disposals and wells is yes; you can use a well for garbage disposal. This should not be a problem.
What Are The Alternatives To Garbage Disposals?
If you have a septic system and want to not affect the limited bacterial balance, you may want to avoid garbage disposal. While garbage disposals are handy for cleaning up food scraps, they are not a necessity.
Several excellent alternatives to trash disposals include composting or vermicomposting, or a filter in a basket. Composting is a great way to turn food scraps into useful material. Many gardeners use compost as fertilizer, so if you have a garden, you can use your food scraps as well.
One of the benefits of composting is that you can compost leaves, paper and grass clippings along with your food waste. Composting is not only easier on your septic system, saving you the cost of frequent pumping, but it’s also an eco-friendly option.
Another option that is easier than composting is a basket filter. Simply purchase a small basket filter and place it in your sink drain. It will catch all the food scraps hanging in the sink. Then, once or twice a day (or more, depending on how often you use your sink), pump the food scraps from the strainer into the trash.
In addition, once a week (or more often if necessary), scrub the strainer out of the basket to remove any excess residue. If you don’t clean the strainer regularly, it will start to stink, especially if food scraps get caught in the basket.