More than 60 million homeowners rely on food disposers for daily kitchen clean-up and expect it to operate effortlessly on demand. Until it stops smoothly and efficiently grinding away, folks typically don’t think about the disposer. But, for some homeowners, there is a growing list of issues they’d like to address ranging from noise reduction to environmental impact.
When it comes to the qualities homeowners are looking for in a food-waste disposer, the usual suspects are in play — convenience and quality. Moen Senior Marketing Manager Cassy Osborne is also hearing the word value in the marketplace.
“Garbage disposal trends seem to be focused around value and performance,” she said. “Consumers and contractors are looking for quality food disposers that offer reliable performance, an outstanding warranty, hassle-free installation, and sufficient horsepower. Warranties also are important, since a disposal can be an unexpected purchase. A strong warranty can help homeowners feel more secure in their decision. Most importantly, they want one that gets the job done.”
Home builders and designers continue to utilize the “quiet home” concept as a part of today’s open floor plan settings. For the retail market, most consumers are replacing out-of-service disposers or adding to a new kitchen.
“Their concerns relative to selecting disposers are understandably different than for the builders/plumbing wholesale customers,” said Joneca Corp. President Edward E. Chavez. “Although the priority would naturally be different for each consumer, considerations include price, ease of installation, odor control, sound control, jam prevention, size, warranty, performance, reliability, and disposer protection.”
Protecting the environment
Environmental applications and sustainability are key factors in today’s food-waste disposer product development and manufacturing. There is an increasing desire for alternatives in food-waste management besides landfills and incinerators. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), food is the largest single source of waste in U.S. landfills and incinerators, making up more than 20% of the country’s garbage. Disposers are one of the few convenient, hygienic options to reduce organic waste from residences.
“To simply transfer and dispose of food waste at the sink, instead of in a trash can, can be a huge eco-benefit,” Osborne said. “The food waste processed by disposals can be sent through wastewater treatment facilities, diverting trash from landfills. It’s a unique eco-benefit some consumers may not have considered. And all our disposals grind waste finely so that it can be processed effectively in a septic system environment or wastewater treatment facility.”
A common misperception is that food-waste disposers waste water and energy, said Rob Grim, InSinkErator’s senior vice president of sales.
“Today’s modern disposers are energy efficient, as they account for only 1% or less of a household’s total water consumption and cost, on average, less than $0.50 per year in electricity,” he said. “Also, food-waste disposers help the environment. Rather than throwing food waste into the trash to end up in a landfill, a food-waste disposer sends it to a wastewater treatment facility where food waste can be turned into renewable energy or fertilizer.”
In addition to residential applications, commercial-grade disposers provide a solution that addresses food waste, and InSinkErator’s Grind2Energy system offers a food-waste disposal solution in areas where landfill disposal is prohibited. This service offers a means to convert food waste into renewable energy through the anaerobic digestion process.
Joe Maiale, InSinkErator’s vice president of sales, said environmental applications and sustainability will continue to play a key role in disposer product development.
“There is an increasing desire for alternatives in food-waste management besides landfills and incinerators,” he said.
On the commercial front, the trends are addressing the most cost-effective and easiest means of how institutions deal with organic waste.
“Trash hauling continues to be expensive and eventually becomes an issue for municipal landfills,” Grim said. “Commercial-grade disposers offer a solution to address food-waste processing in the kitchen area.”
Using a disposal actually requires fewer resources than sending waste to a landfill, Osborne agreed.
“Often, replacing an older unit with a new, properly functioning unit will save water since older units may take longer to process waste, requiring the water to be left on for longer periods,” she said. “New units that function correctly can process waste more effectively and reduce the amount of time the water needs to run to clear the waste through the plumbing system.”
The use of a disposer takes up less than one extra flush of a toilet per day, Chavez said. “Many U.S. and international studies on the handling of food waste have confirmed the use of disposers and the sewer system is the most environmentally friendly method for disposing of — and recycling — food waste. The alternatives to the use of disposers involve incineration and/or curbside pickup.”
By contrast, food waste handled by disposers flows through to the sewage treatment plants. Since the food waste is ground up by the disposers, this allows for more contact area for bacteria to do its work more efficiently.
“Often, the sludge resulting from this bacterial action is then used for fertilizer and is thus recycled,” Chavez said.
Manufacturers say they have addressed the “noise pollution” that occurs when a food-waste disposer is operating, although not every end user finds the noise level a problem.
“Sound is more of a personal choice,” Osborne said. “Some homeowners want silence while others like to hear the motor doing its job. Sound is affected by everything from your sink depth to cabinet height and kitchen floor plan, and it’s just not the decision factor you might expect.”
Grim noted a different trend. “Noise reduction continues to be a top-selling feature of InSinkErator disposers, as it provides the additional convenience of being able to run your disposer whenever you need to — even while you are talking on the phone,” he said.
From the creation of the Waste Maid program for the U.S. market, sound control has been built into each Waste Maid Disposer, Chavez said. “With the Torque Master Balanced Grinding System, each motor armature, each turntable, and the impellers are all balanced together to assure smooth running and quieter operation. Full sound insulation for the larger models further adds to the sound control.”
InSinkErator’s Evolution Series features two exclusive technologies: MultiGrind and SoundSeal. MultiGrind offers two stages of grinding vs. a single stage found in standard disposers to shear, shred, and grind. SoundSeal Plus technology uses a combination of baffle advances, multi-layer foam insulation and anti-vibration components to make it the quietest disposer available.
Another feature is the Quick Lock Sink Mount, a “twist-on, twist-off” mount with a positive feedback when it clicks into place that makes installation simple. The Evolution Septic Assist is designed specifically for homes with septic systems. It features an automatic Bio-Charge injection, a natural micro-organism that helps break down food waste. The Evolution Essential XTR is the latest disposer model offering SinkTop Switch for homeowners who need a food-waste disposer but lack a wall switch. It includes a power cord in the box for easy installation.
“With the introduction of garbage disposals, Moen has homeowners covered above the sink and below,” Osborne said. “Contractors will notice our garbage disposals are built to require fewer steps in the process, simplifying installation. For example, the twist-and-lock function in the Universal Xpress Mount system makes it easy for contractors to set up, and it’s compatible with most existing three-bolt mounting systems.
“Additionally, our disposals are compact and light. This is of great value to contractors when working with the units. Plus, the preinstalled power cord saves time and steps during installation. Less jamming from the Vortex permanent magnet motor helps to reduce the number of callbacks, saving time and protecting their reputation.”
Joneca’s Waste Maid brands feature a permanent magnet motor that provides more torque power and jam prevention while at the same time taking up less space under the sink. The Waste Maid Designer Series offers disposers with sink flanges in the most popular colors to match the kitchen, including brushed nickel, oil-rubbed bronze, polished chrome, black, and white.
Other features include the Bio-Shield Anti-Microbial, which helps prevent odors from the disposers; magnetic Silver Guard Disposer Protection, which prevents metal objects from entering the disposer chamber; removable splash guards on all models for easy cleaning and insertion of bulky food waste; and the Torque Master Balanced Grinding System for quieter, smoother operation.
On the commercial front, EnviroPure Systems’ food-disposal system can be retrofitted into a kitchen’s existing setup, allowing food waste to be sent through a disposer with the slurry directed into the digester rather than the sewer system, National Sales Manager Jona Gallagher said. Inside the digester, continuous mechanical processing and a micronutrient additive convert food waste into sewer-safe graywater within 24 hours. The effluent meets municipal restrictions for graywater, including those regarding total suspended solids and fats, oils, and grease.
For installers, there’s still a need for consumer education. Look to the manufacturers for some teaching aids. For example, Moen provides comprehensive learning resources for the new garbage disposal line and has created videos to give insight into the disposal’s internals. These can be found at moen.com/disposals in addition to installation and removal tutorial videos, and interactive feature explanations with visuals to specification, warranty details, and parts sheets.
Along similar lines, InSinkErator recently launched a CEU (continuing education unit) course that provides a complete overview of sink appliance considerations when designing a sustainable kitchen, including specifics of different types of in-home water purification options and how to select a delivery system that fits clients’ needs. The course covers household and community waste-management processes that impact kitchens, including how food waste can be turned into renewable energy and usable fertilizer for farmers, landscapers, and home gardeners.
“Trade partners can also participate in the eLearning Center,” Maiale said. “These training pieces cover a variety of topics and are available at insinkerator.com/training. The modules have been created specifically for plumbers, kitchen-and-bath-showroom design personnel, builders, and others involved in the design, specification, and installation of residential kitchen projects. The programs feature video, voice narration, and interactive games.”
Editor’s note: Supply House Times Editor Mike Miazga and freelance writer Allison Deerr also contributed to this report.
This article was originally titled “Seeking a higher grind” in the November 2016 print edition of Plumbing & Mechanical.