Garbage disposals are also sometimes called a waste disposal. It is a device that attaches under a kitchen sink. Usually, they are powered electrically. They are installed between the drain of the sink and the trap. The purpose of the device is to shred or cut food waste into pieces, usually smaller than two millimeters, that are small enough to pass through plumbing. In some other locations, these are called garburators. They are very common in the United States, but they are much less common around the world. For example, garbage disposals in Stockbridge, Georgia are probably very common. Many households have them because it reduces the need to clean out sink traps and drains. This reduces the amount of labor needed to wash dishes and dispose of food waste. In a sink without one of these devices, the user has to be sure to clean out the drain or else food can get caught in the plumbing. This can cause a clog that will be very expensive and time-consuming to fix.
In 1927, an architect in Wisconsin named John W. Hammes invented the first generation of garbage disposals. He patented his device in 1935. He created a company to sell his unit. His company was called InSinkErator. However, General Electric disputes his claim, as that company put out the first unit in 1935. So, it is likely that John W. Hammes invented the device first but was slow to patent it. In the meantime, General Electric developed a similar device. Since they are a much larger company, they were able to move to production much quicker and bring the device to market.
These devices came at a time during the 1930s when many municipal governments prohibited putting food waste into the sewage system. Essentially, this meant that local sewage boards prohibited putting garbage in your sinks. Hammes’ company, InSinkErator, used much of their energy convincing municipalities to change the regulations. He was highly successful, but some places were still not as receptive. For example, garbage disposals were illegal in New York City until 1997. The city believed that the devices would damage the sewage system. After a study lasting almost two years, the ban was removed.
Raleigh, North Carolina banned the devices in 2008 but then rescinded the order shortly after. However, most of the United States has moved towards the use of the units. A company such as Delta Plumbing Inc. installs hundreds of units in U.S. homes every year. In fact, fifty percent of homes in the United States had a unit in 2009. That is compared with fewer than ten percent in the UK and fewer than five percent in Canada. In Sweden, however, the use of the devices is encouraged.