There was a problem at my daughters’ apartment yesterday morning that brought to my mind something that could be done to reduce pollution and decrease electric usage, but it’s one which would impact only the middle- and upper- classes, to they won’t like it.
The apartment is in a 1920s vintage fourplex, two apartments on the first floor, and two on the second. It’s a nice enough looking building, somewhat better than the student slums neighborhoods, but hardly high end. The apartment directly over my daughters’ apartment isn’t rented, but owned by the occupant, and has had a kitchen upgrade that includes a garbage disposal.
So, what happened? The waste from the upstairs disposal flowed down the old, cast iron waste lines . . . until it got to the only slightly pitched lines in the building basement, and that led to the upstairs drain water backing up, and overflowing, the sink in my daughters’ apartment below. A plumber had to be called to snake out the old lines. Having redone all of the plumbing in my house, and the house I previously owned, I can tell you one thing: I would never, ever, ever put in a garbage disposal in any house where I was going to be responsible for keeping the waste lines working.
Well, garbage disposals sure seem convenient, but they are absolute nightmares for plumbing. Unlike toilets, which are designed to carry solid waste to the sewer or septic tank and have standard 3″ diameter waste lines — and some installations use 4″ waste lines, which I believe to be a very wise idea — the drain lines for sinks are only 1½” in diameter. That’s fine for draining grey water, but garbage disposals take food — and whatever — scraps and mince them into very small pieces, and send those solids down those 1½” drain lines as well.
Here is a good listing of what you can and cannot put into your garbage disposal. But people, not always being particularly careful about what they do, sometimes put in things which they shouldn’t, and sometimes don’t operate in in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
Garbage disposals typically have a ½ to ¾ horsepower motor. Thus, the result of using a garbage disposal is that more waste is mixed in with the water going into sewers, and thus more waste which must be removed at the downstream sewage treatment plant. This means that the sewage treatment plant will consume more electricity, and 63.5% of all electricity in this country is generated by burning fossil fuels. In addition, running the garbage disposal itself consumes electricity. It doesn’t use a lot of electricity, given that the disposal is typically used for only brief time periods, but hey, that’s still electric consumption.
Thus, part of the so-called ‘Green New Deal’ should include eliminating garbage disposals. People can get along just fine without them, and composting vegetable food scraps — you should not put meat scraps in a compost pile — is good for the environment.
But, of course, such a recommendation has almost no impact on the poor or working classes, because they are the ones least likely to have garbage disposals. These are appliances normally found in middle- and upper-class homes, and thus banning them would almost exclusively affect better off Americans.
And let’s tell the truth here: poorer Americans are far less concerned with global warming climate change than they are with keeping food on the table and a roof over their heads. Those who want to ‘do something’ about global warming climate change are primarily those for whom an increase in their electric bills or the requirement to buy a plug-in electric automobile won’t necessitate a choice about which bill not to pay this month.
So, let’s see Al Gore and John Kerry advocate an action which will primarily affect their wealthy friends! I’ll bet that would never happen.
Please visit my Red State story archive for more of my articles.
My personal website, The First Street Journal, includes articles not necessarily in Red State’s paradigm.
You can follow me on Twitter.