In this report
Consider all costs

Consider all the costs before buying a garbage disposer

Last reviewed: August 2009
Consumer Reports' 2009 review of the best performing garbage disposers
Bottom feeders
Garbage disposers grind food scraps in a chamber using spinning or fixed blades before tap water washes the fragments down the drain.

Some municipalities discourage residential garbage disposers because of inadequate sewer systems or water supplies. Even if your community allows disposers, using one may cost you more than you think. Before buying a disposer, answer these questions:

1. Is a garbage disposer appropriate in my area?

If you use a municipal sewer system, call your local sewer authority to find out its disposer policy. Some require a permit to use one, while others discourage them because of limited water and sewer capacity.

2. Is my septic tank big enough?

Your municipality may require an upgrade if you use a garbage disposer. Consult the local building inspector or environmental health official. Alternatively, you may need to empty the existing tank more frequently.

3. Is the plumbing up to the task?

Don't install a garbage disposer if plumbing clogs or backups are frequent, since a disposer's added waste can make both more likely. Have a problem septic system fixed, emptied, or enlarged before buying a garbage disposer.

4. Is the extra water use worth it?

Figure on roughly 2 gallons of water per minute for most sinks, or about 700 gallons per year based on minute-per-day use. Besides potentially increasing your water bill, a disposer's added consumption is a concern in drought areas.