Waste handling is not a glamorous issue. Getting rid of waste economically and in an environmentally sound way is a major challenge. Waste hauling charges in many large metropolitan areas are rising at a rate above that of food and labor. The increasing cost is due, in part, to increased governmental regulations on disposal of waste.

Waste has become a political and community issue as well as a cost concern. Mishandled garbage can impact your guests’ experience, especially when there are odor, insect and rodent problems. How you dispose of your restaurant waste can impact your perception among your guests and in the community.  

Some waste issues occur after garbage leaves the kitchen, but here we will examine what types of equipment you’ll need inside to reduce concerns and costs. Using the most effective equipment can greatly help the overall waste challenge. Disposers and pulpers are two types of kitchen equipment to consider.

Grinders/Waste Disposers. Garbage grinders or waste disposers grind food waste into particles small enough to go down the drain and directly into the municipal sewer system. The advantage is that you never have to touch the waste. But there’s a rub: An increasing number of counties and cities are banning their use for environmental reasons or because municipal waste systems can’t handle the added load of organic waste. If there is no ban in your area, use a grinder.

Disposers can be used in several locations in the kitchen. They also provide the convenience of getting rid of some of the bulk waste where it’s generated, including the dishwashing room, at prep sinks and potwashing areas.

Disposers all work in essentially the same way. Food waste is broken into small particles when protruding bars inside the machine attached to a rapidly revolving rotor collide with the waste. The food waste is continually shattered until it is broken down into pieces small enough to be washed through a sizing ring, a fixed ring around the perimeter of the disposer cavity.  As the waste is being shattered, it is being mixed with water to form a slurry to help wash it through the unit and into the sewer system.  

Most manufacturers make units that can be adapted to fit in the bottom of a sink, at the end of a dishtable trough or in their own cone-shaped basin. All manufacturers make grinders in a variety of horse power ratings, one of which will match your application. In most restaurant applications, a range of one to five horsepower units will be adequate for the operation’s needs. Generally, the dishroom will require a three to five horsepower model, while a preparation sink may only need a one or two horsepower machine.  

A drawback to a disposer is that they use a lot of fresh water in making the slurry of waste that goes down the drain. A hybrid system that is available uses a disposer with a recirculating water trough. The unit separates the water from the waste and reuses the water. The system recirculates a large amount of water that can be used for scrapping dishes, but then allows only about half the water a traditional disposer uses to go down the drain in the waste slurry.

If you don’t currently have a disposer in your operation, check with the local plumbing department first to be sure they can be used in your area. Areas vary widely on their support of garbage grinders, based primarily on the adequacy of the municipality’s sewage system. Many city sewer systems can no longer handle the bulk of food waste from restaurants. These cities have either banned disposers or placed excessive sewer taxes on the operation when disposers are used. Certain other areas like island resorts ban disposers because of the scarcity of fresh water and lack of treatment plants. Other cities, however, see disposers as an environmentally sound way of reducing health hazards associated with food waste and reducing waste going into landfills. A few cities require new restaurants to have waste disposers in each kitchen area where food waste is generated as a means of reducing waste to landfills.

Foodservice professionals and workers generally agree that disposers are a beneficial labor-savings way to reduce waste-associated hazards and odors, but what if disposers are not permitted? Pulpers are the answer.