Disposals in Raleigh Go Down the Drain

sink.jpgThe Raleigh City Council unanimously voted yesterday to ban the installation of new or replacement garbage disposals that would be connected to the city’s sewer system.


I love my disposals and actually have two sinks with them. I’ve frequently thought about composting, but not being a gardener, I’ve never headed down that path. But now I need to re-think my approach. Especially if either of them die (although they both have lifetime guarantees, but I could only repair, not replace, them under the new ordinance).

I wonder if there will be a black market for disposals, and if you can slip your plumber a little extra money to install one for you on the sly.


23 Responses to Disposals in Raleigh Go Down the Drain

  1. Dana says:

    I would rather have a disposal and twice a week garbage pick up than a revitalized downtown.

  2. Joe says:

    I can’t imagine there *won’t* be a disposal black market.

    You know, home dishwashers advertise themselves as having built-in garbage disposals. I know they aren’t the same as an in-sink model, but I wonder if that will come up as a problem?

  3. Composting is super easy with a table top composter! Although, with the amount of fresh ingredients you use, it probably would get overwhelmed quickly.

  4. seahawg says:

    Psssttt….Hey buddy… over here….

    I have no doubt there will be illegal installs. How our local government can be so inept just befuddles me. I know they have a problem with grease, but instituting a law they know will be flaunted, just encourages civil disobedience.

    And a big double Amen to a desire for twice a week pickup behind the house. The one good service we had, and they took it away. When will they learn that most people just want the basics for city services. Do a few things, but do them well. Used to be there was one phone number for city hall. Now there are literally thousands of extensions at hundreds of departments.

    A slate of candidates running on a back to basics theme would sail in to office with little effort.

    Now, let me climb down off this soapbox….

  5. Varmint says:

    That’s what I love about having my own blog. I can allow political discussion whenever I want!

  6. Cheryl says:

    Seahawg would get my vote. Re backyard pickup: some of my neighbors did not want the garbage men going into their backyards so they’d put their garbage cans on the curb…apparently leading the garbage men to erroneously assume that if you did not put your garbage on the curb, then there was no garbage to be collected. So many times I’d have to call garbage pick-up to tell them they’d neglected to get our garbage….

  7. seahawg says:

    If nominated, I will not run. If elected, I will not serve….

  8. Rochelle says:

    Being on the rural edge of suburbia means we have a septic system. Septic means you can’t put much of anything down the disposal or you’ll upset the bacterial balance–it’s designed to break down only so much, and most of that is supposed to be other forms of waste. So we scrape our plates before washing, and have a big compost heap in the backyard that we never turn and never use (too lazy to go that far!).

    My parents, who live in Greensboro as you may recall, CANNOT get around the idea that we don’t dump anything down the disposal if we can help it. I remember YOU saying something similar at the last eG Pig Picking when you caught me scraping a dish before washing.

    I hope the city reverses, but really, it’s not the end of the world. And to be honest, we have a cheapass weak disposal model in our sink and unlike in our old home which had a decent sized motor, it never ever breaks down because we never ever overwhelm it.

    Who knew Jewish people had soapboxes too? 🙂

  9. detlef says:

    Wow, I am truly amazed at some of the whining here.

    Get over it. They’re bad for the water system. End of story. Throw your garbage away like good little boys and girls. Keep a can for your grease and move on. It’s as if we have some inalienable right to f up our streams or something. Nobody’s telling you that you have to compost. Oh, and while you’re at it. Why in god’s name do you need to have your trash picked up twice a week? My wife and I roll the trash can out to the curb about every third week.

    Over time, the real price of many of our luxuries are going to become more apparent. You might as well give up on the petty things like being able to cram your garbage down your sink before we start having to make far more serious choices.

    Raleigh is not the first place on earth that has taken away people precious disposals.

  10. Mike says:

    It’s a good thing that food disposal’s are pretty simple to install yourself. Just go over to Garner, or Durham, or whatever town happens to be closest by, pick up a food disposal (“No really ma’am I don’t live in Raleigh, nevermind what my license says”) and install it yourself if yours breaks. I replaced a failing one recently and it took under an hour to do.

  11. Varmint says:

    People will always whine when a convenience to which they’ve grown accustomed is taken away. It’s that simple. It doesn’t matter whether it’s good for the environment or anything like that. It’s simply a matter of “I once had it and now I don’t.” Change always creates negativity, even when change is obviously necessary.

    Of course, no one has an inalienable right to f-up our streams, but they do have an inalienable right to bitch. Isn’t that the American way? 😉

    And I don’t have a problem with the once a week trash pickup, and I have four kids.

  12. Cheryl says:

    Just for the record, I’ve adjusted pretty well to once-a-week garbage pickup and yes, I’m usually the one who wheels the container to the curb. And come to think of it, I don’t overuse my garbage disposer and am very careful about what I put in it. It burns me up, though, that this ruling seemingly came about because so many imbeciles poured grease down their disposers.

  13. Lurker says:

    Well certainly I’ve learned in life that the world is full of imbeciles who have no clue about how things work (like water and sewer systems) but feel qualified to tell the people who do know all about what they’re doing wrong… Even after public education programs about how pouring grease down the drain causes problems (read: sewage backups as the grease hardens in the buried pipes), people who think the world is their own frickin’ private oyster refuse to adjust their ways. I think that “I have seen the enemy and he is us” applies here…

  14. detlef says:

    It is your right to bitch. However, whenever you do, somebody owes it to you to remind you that you’re doing so (often needlessly).

    Regarding Cheryl’s comments about a few spoiling it for the rest of us. Excuse me? Isn’t that pretty much the reason for nearly every law we have? I’m sure there are plenty of people who feel, if left to their own devices, they’d do the right thing. However, those same people often have little faith in their neighbor doing the same. Unfortunately, that lack of faith is often well deserved.

  15. Varmint says:

    I hope you’re not directing your comments to me, Charlie, as I have NOT bitched about the ordinance. I’ve only said that I like my disposals and with the disposal ban, I’ll need to re-think my approach.

    We can have lots of discussions about philosophical and economic theories — tragedy of the commons, free riders, free market environmentalism — but it’s clear that if there is a problem with disposals, then there has to be a solution, which might inconvenience a lot of folks. I have no problem with the inconvenience, and will, in fact, reconsider how much I use my disposals.

    I have an ongoing discussion with my 12 year old daughter about why it’s important she change her water consumption habits. She doesn’t want to take 3 minute showers and thinks it’s everyone else’s responsibility to conserve. She’s a 12-year old, so, at least for another couple of years, I can accept this simple-mindedness.

    And I agree that it’s very short-minded to bitch about our city council who is actually being somewhat proactive and controversial. Folks want it all — great schools, great parks, liveable cities — but they don’t want to assume those necessary responsibilities that accompany those objectives. Like paying for those programs. We always have that free rider problem, which drives me bat shit. Our local leaders have always played “not to lose”, and so far, things have gone OK so far. But at some point, the failure to be proactive in the planning process will bite us all in the collective butt.

    So despite my attempt to remain neutral on the City Council’s position, I’m not able to do so. Although this is a minor issue in the giant scheme of things, it was a pretty gutsy thing to do, and I’m supportive of the decision. It has definitely made me re-think my use of my disposers.

    Finally, I like the bitch sessions this blog promotes, and I often am the chief complainer. But it creates a dialogue, and if we learn from the discussion, I’m happy.

  16. quazi says:

    I think there was a wall street journal article a week or two ago about many places that had formerly banned disposals now allowing or even mandating them. reasons cited included reducing trips of diesel using garbage trucks and making it easier to use the food waste to produce methane for energy. There are pros and cons for most modern conveniences and i can’t really imagine that this will have a big impact on disposal use. Downsides in this case are increased stress on sewage systems. I doubt this ordinance will stop people from dumping grease in a drain which seems to be the real problem.

  17. RayRoadie says:

    And why does the city think that if garbage disposals are banned clueless people will instantaneously stop pouring grease down their drains?

    There are pros and cons to this arguement but it seems that, once again, our elected officials’ response to a genuine concern is a knee-jerk reaction, not a solution.

  18. VaNC says:

    It is my understanding from my limited knowledge of sewer systems, that it is not just the grease that is the problem, it is also the food and other bits which the grease clings onto and makes the big honkin’ clogs. These lead sewers to totally clog and pour all their smelly, bacterially quesionable, muck into roads, land and streams. It causes environmental damage and cost the city tons of money. Not to mention shuts down water supply to neighorhoods while they fix it. The city has been dealing with this for years, started an education campaign to avoid outlawing disposals, but it has come to this.

    I agree with others that this is a pain in the butt, but one I can deal with. I agree with VArmint that I applaud the Council for being proactive. I am tired of reading blogs where people complain, on the one hand, about the city leaders waiting too long to take any action about the drought, or whatever. Then when they act proactively on an issue such as this, they complain about that too. Although, I think that, given that the Council tried education on this issue first, it is not like they are moving that fast on this issue…this seems to be a last resort. I happen to have a lot of respect for the Public Utilities crowd in our city, knowing some of them and the hours that they work. I can’t think they they went forward with this proposal lightly…like, “hey, lets try this for a lark.” It was definately a last resort in a bad situation.

    Perhaps, if the Utilities dept can stop spending time and money on clogs, then they can spend time and money on some other issues, like new facilities for recycling food waste, or upgrading the current system to deal with food/grease or whataver.

    As Lurker says, we all need to realize that the world is not our “own fricken’ oyster” , that there is a price tag in time or money attached to everything, and that as this city grows AND as the environment changes, the city AND ITS CITIZENS will have to make adjustments in how we live and/or what we are willing to pay for in city services.

    Varmint, thanks for the soapbox.

  19. seahawg says:

    I could be wrong, and it certainly wouldn’t be the first time, but it seems the big problem is the grease. As VaNC points out the grease attaches itself to the ground up food bits and causes the big honkin clogs. Now from what I can see, the disposal does a pretty good job of macerating the food items. I’m as big an advocate as anyone for scraping the plates into the waste can before washing. But, I do wait to fill the dishwasher before running a load. Water shortage you know. So, I rinse the five or six stuck on rice kernels down the disposal before placing the dishes in the dishwasher.

    Now, this finely macerated mess does go down into the sewer where unwisely disposed of grease could attach to it and cause clogs. Just because you outlaw disposals, won’t stop the idiots that pour grease down the drain from continuing to do so. Now I’ve seen the finely macerated stuff that comes out of a garbage disposal, and I’ve seen the large unmacerated flushings from a commode. I ain’t no rocket scientist, but I’m guessing the later is a much larger substance for which grease to cling.

    Back in high school I actually worked at the waste water treatment plant and was registered with the state as a Grade III Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator. I’ve crawled around in sewers and seen the backups and clogs caused by grease. The clogs I saw were usually caused by larger items that washed into storm drains. Not to say that ground up food couldn’t contribure to clogs, but there were a WHOLE lot more things that were more likely. Now this was the late 60’s, early 70’s so garbage disposals weren’t an issue.

    Not being current on the latest studies of wastewater, I may be totally offbase and this may be more threating than global warming. But if it is the grease in fact that is the problem, and not the macerated food, and the people inclined to pour grease down a drain whether they have a disposal or not, continue to do so, then they’ve done nothing to address the actual problem. It may not be a knee jerk reaction to make it look like we are doing something, but it sure appears that way.

    And Charlie, what does the city require of your restaurant for preventing grease intrusion into the sewers? They require a greasetrap. If this is such a pressing problem, then do something effective such as requiring greasetraps for homes. Again, I may be totally offbase, and garbage disposals may be responsible for 99% of grease intrusion, and 100% of all cancer occurrences. If so, I apologize.

    And for those of you who think I’m whining too much? Leave me alone or I’ll tell my mommy!

    Dean, did you ever envision your blog turning into a soapbox?

  20. VaNC says:

    Soapboxes are good.

  21. Varmint says:

    I aim to please!

  22. cbb says:

    The city council voted to approve a staff recommendation. I think we can assume that the staff knows more about the mechanics of why Raleigh’s sewer system clogs.

    Of course it isn’t a perfect remedy, and of course someone that wants to not comply with the ordinance can ignore it and buy and install a disposal. But overall it probably will extend the longevity and lower maintenance costs of the system, just like picking up garbage once a week is cheaper. And it is easy to adapt to these changes, requiring everyone to install a grease trap is not easy or cheap.

    I used to live outside of the city, and I could have contracted with two garbage services to pick my garbage twice a week, but why in the world I?? It would double my costs for no effective benefit. Why would twice a week pickup be no less expensive for a municipality to offer? Isn’t it obvious that your benefits aren’t going away for fun, but because it lowers the cost of service? And doesn’t everyone want lower taxes?

  23. seahawg says:

    Well, it looks like the committee appointed to investigate this issue either came to their senses, or capitulated to the masses, depending on your perspective. After looking at the science behind the decision, they decided the council acted too hastily, and have recommended that the decision to ban disposals be lifted.

    cbb states above that “The city council voted to approve a staff recommendation. I think we can assume that the staff knows more about the mechanics of why Raleigh’s sewer system clogs.” More than who? I want councilmen (and women), that will not take things on face value alone. I agree that staff deserves a certain imbuement of authority to their opinions, but they are just that, opinions, unless they are backed by fact. Blind Faith was a great band, but it’s not a quality I’m looking for in my elected representatives.

    I think we all would agree that car wrecks are a bad thing. If I told you I could insure that they could be completely banished from the streets of Raleigh, with 100% certainty, would you go along? What if than requirement was that we ban cars on city streets. Probably wouldn’t fly, since it would be a major inconvenience. But at least it would have achieved the desired effect.

    Banning disposals was an inconvenience, but it wasn’t even certain it would achieve the desired results. Consensus opinion was “Well it might help, and it won’t make it any worse.”

    I’m willing to give up certain freedoms for the greater good, but you are darn well going to have to prove to me that it truly will be effective, and provide the intended result for the greater good.

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