In early March, the Raleigh City Council approved a ban on installing any new and replacement garbage disposal units as a way to reduce sewage overflows. The ordinance does not prohibit selling disposers. 

In early March, the Raleigh, NC City Council approved a ban on installing any new and replacement garbage disposal units as a way to reduce sewage overflows. The ordinance does not prohibit selling disposers. 

According to local news reports, some area plumbers and hardware store owners are not so sure the ban will work the way it’s intended, and question how it will be enforced.

Disposal manufacturer InSinkErator quickly responded to the ordinance, and even though the council took the action without soliciting public discussion, much discussion has ensued.

“As soon as InSinkErator found out about it, we initiated discussions with city officials and other authorities in an effort to get the ban reversed,” says David MacNair, vice president of marketing with InSinkErator. The company told PM it was scheduled to attend the next city council meeting and was “cautiously optimistic” that, when presented with the facts from numerous studies, the city would reverse its decision.

The new ordinance prohibits any new garbage disposals from being connected to the city’s sewer system. Those who already have the disposals installed can continue use them, but if they break they cannot be replaced.

Local reports say city leaders believe food and grease being thrown down the drain have caused a number of sewage overflows. Neighboring towns included on Raleigh’s water system also will have to follow the ban.

The state is now issuing violations for “environmentally improper” sewer overflows, InSinkErator informed PM.

However, InSinkErator believes the decision was made without all the facts.

“The research is clear that there is no established relationship between the use of disposers and sewer clogging,” MacNair told PM. “Sanitary sewer overflows are related to many issues ― people pouring grease down their drains, dishwashing, poor sewer maintenance that leads to blockage by roots and other debris, high-intensity thunder storms that can infiltrate sanitary sewers, overwhelming sewer capacity, etc.”

He says that while Raleigh sites one of the key issues of overflows as “grease poured down drains,” the ordinance won’t solve that trouble. “Public education and better sewer system maintenance are the answers.”

The company also had this to say: 

“Food waste disposers can play a positive role in an environmentally friendly, holistic waste management approach.

“Keeping food waste out of landfills is increasingly the focus of several states and cities including California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and especially in Europe. InSinkErator is active in discussions in many places about how disposers can be even more helpful in achieving that goal ― so as to reduce greenhouse gasses that contribute to global warming.”

InSinkErator says that Raleigh withdrew a similar proposal in 2000 ― with different council members ― after learning more about the many environmental benefits of disposers, by a unanimous vote of the Public Works Committee.

“Unfortunately, this time InSinkErator was not made aware of the city's proposal and thus were not able to share any of the numerous studies available.”

The company attended a city council meeting in Raleigh last week where they presented facts from studies showing no relationship between disposers and sewer overflows. The Raleigh Council referred the matter to a committee for review.

Fun Fact from PM's 'History Of Plumbing'

When disposers were first introduced in the 1930s, many municipalities were concerned about their impact on sewage treatment systems. However, by 1960 they were required in new construction by ordinance in more than 100 communities because of their sanitary value. Much like the water closet, a disposer immediately removes food waste from the home through sewerage pipes to treatment plants, where it can be treated and recycled into fertilizer.