The Raleigh, N.C., City Council is considering a proposal that would ban the installation of food waste disposers in new homes attached to the city sewer system. The matter has been assigned to a committee, or action, said Dempsey Benton, city manager.

"The proposal would only apply to new homes, not existing homes," Benton told Supply House Times. "We're adding about 3,000 dwelling units per year, and not every home gets a disposal. Over the next 10 years we could be adding 30,000 units to our sewer system."

The ban is being considered in response to the problem of sewage spills, an issue that has garnered attention with the introduction of a state law last fall that fines municipalities up to $25,000 for every spill.

A public hearing on the proposed ban was held in December. No residents spoke at the hearing, Benton said. An official from In-Sink-Erator, a manufacturer of food waste disposers, gave a presentation.

The hearing drew only supporters of waste disposers, including those who make, sell and repair them, and it lasted about 10 minutes, according to The News & Observer newspaper.

"I presented two reports," said David MacNair, vice president/marketing for In-Sink-Erator. One was a study conducted by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, which led to the city's lifting of its ban on waste disposers.

The other study was from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The author examined the total life-cycle cost of five different methods of disposal of food waste: incineration, landfill, septic system, disposer attached to a municipal sewer system and composting.

The New York City study proved that there was no detrimental effect on the city's sewage infrastructure, MacNair said. The Wisconsin study concluded that the lowest total cost method of disposing of food waste was a disposer attached to a municipal sewage system.

"We have a vested interest in the question," MacNair said, "but the facts speak for themselves. A food waste disposer is almost an assumed convenience in today's kitchen. It's an environmentally responsible way of dealing with food waste as opposed to using a landfill or composting."

Communities in 18 states have ordinances that require the use of food waste disposers due to the positive impact on the disposal of garbage waste, said Thomas Dugan, vice president/marketing and sales at Anaheim Manufacturing Co., another manufacturer of food waste disposers.

Dugan also cited The New York City study, which analyzed three pilot locations over a 21-month period. The study found that, even if worst case projections proved true, potential maintenance cost increases for the city's sewer system that could be attributed to the use of food waste disposers would be minimal.

Mark Brewer, vice president/marketing at HydroMaid, which also manufactures food waste disposers, said disposers are useful from a sanitary standpoint, because wet garbage attracts roaches and rodents, especially in urban areas, and food waste disposers address that problem.