- Philadelphia is requiring installation of in-sink food waste disposers (garbage disposals) in all new residential construction to help the city achieve several sustainability goals: targeting 10% of its residential waste, generating renewable energy, and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions by diverting food waste from the landfill.
- The law was sponsored by outgoing City Council member Dennis O’Brien, and supported by city agencies and the Building Industry Association.
- The construction mandate was established following a 2012-2013 demonstration project which involved installation of garbage disposals in 175 homes and educating residents on their use. Participating residents reduced their food waste by an average of 35%.
U.S. cities know that they must make efforts to reduce food waste, as the federal government has announced a national food waste reduction goal of 50% by 2030. To divert such waste from their landfills, about 200 municipalities have adopted organic waste curbside collection systems, according to BioCycle magazine. But garbage disposals are often overlooked as yet another means to keep garbage off landfills.
The results of Philadelphia’s demonstration project launched three years ago makes a strong case for a city garbage disposal mandate, showing it could significantly reduce trash, which in turn would reduce odors and vermin. By disposing of such waste into the water stream, food scraps can be passed through water resource recovery facilities that will separate the waste from the water.
Therefore, in addition to providing these environmental benefits, food waste could be a moneymaker, if used as a resource to support another municipal project; Philadelphia’s North Treatment Plant. The plant leverages anaerobic digesters that produce biogas from organic wastes; Synagro uses the biogas and makes and markets fertilizer products.
The Philadelphia law has Mayor Michael Nutter’s full support. He stated, "While residential recycling rates have tripled over the past eight years, reducing the amount of food waste in the city's waste stream is critical to meeting more aggressive waste reduction goals. In-sink food waste disposers are a helpful tool as the city continues to explore opportunities to divert organic material from the waste stream."