Published onFebruary 2nd, 2023
Are Garbage Disposals Allowed in New York City? Yes… But Here’s Why They’re Still Rare
If you manage a condominium or co-operative building in one of the five boroughs, you may have wondered: are garbage disposals allowed in New York City? If these handy devices are actually legal, why do so few properties have them? To answer your question, yes, garbage disposals are permitted in New York City. But here’s a look at why they are still rare and what you can do if the occupants of your building demand this now-legal appliance for waste removal.
The History of Garbage Disposals in New York City
Banned until 1997
The garbage disposal was invented nearly 100 years ago, although it didn’t become mainstream until around the middle of the 20th century. Suburban homeowners and residents of other cities enjoyed this easy way to eliminate kitchen waste, which meant no hauling messy bags of vegetable scraps and bones to the curb or trash chute.
However, in New York City, garbage disposals were legally banned. It became almost a point of pride for New Yorkers during the 1970s and ‘80s until the ban was reversed in 1997. Prior to the end of the ban, several hundred disposals were installed across the city for a trial period that lasted nearly two years.
Although garbage disposals have been legal for 25 years, few properties in New York City make use of them. The answer to why lies in why they were banned in the first place.
So, Why Don’t More People Have Garbage Disposals Now That They’re Legal?
Concerns about clogged pipes
Anyone who has lived in New York for a length of time knows how old and fragile the city’s infrastructure can be. While there have been improvements made to the municipal sewer system that could now accommodate garbage disposals, most buildings aren’t made for them, especially those constructed during the pre-war period.
Older New York City buildings tend to have narrower pipes that have been made even less voluminous over the years. The fear of residents dumping their garbage down the drain is a real one that stems from cases of blocked waste lines, burst pipes, and sewage backing up into people’s homes. No one wants to be responsible for having to repair someone else’s bathroom or, worse, replace plumbing in their dwelling due to unsuccessful attempts to use a garbage disposal. Therefore, many condo and co-op buildings have still banned garbage disposals, even though they’re legal in New York.
Some properties do use sewage grinder pumps, but these are not exactly the same as a garbage disposal, although they’re similar. These pumps have a basin that holds ground-up waste and propels it from the unit when the basin is full. They’re intended to be used where gravity isn’t available to help remove waste from low-lying units, such as those below street level. And they serve more than just kitchens, removing waste from bathrooms and laundry areas too.
How Can Your Building Make Garbage Disposal Use Safer and Easier?
Never use them on the sly
Some New York residents whose building mates won’t allow garbage disposals have installed them in secret. But in some instances, this has resulted in disaster, as the building wasn’t designed to handle garbage disposal use. If occupants are going to use garbage disposals, they need to be permitted for everyone. Then, follow the tips below to reduce your risk of problems.
Make sure the plumbing can handle the waste
Kitchen waste that is ground up in a garbage disposal must travel a long path to get to the sewer main. The higher up or further away a unit is from the city sewer system, the further the waste has to be transported. Therefore, it’s imperative that the building’s plumbing is up to the task, from the sink to where it exits the property lines.
First, make sure the under-sink P-traps are correctly installed between the sink drain and the garbage disposal. This prevents waste from backing up into the sink, and it makes it easy for property managers to deal with local clogs. A quick-release nut on the trap will facilitate faster opening of the trap.
Next, the piping leading to the sewer main needs to be wide enough and healthy enough to handle a larger volume of waste than just dirty water. Camera visualization performed by a plumber can help determine the status of your pipes. Older pipes may need to be replaced between units and the street.
Educate residents about garbage disposal use
Perhaps the most important task is instructing dwellers about what can and cannot go in a garbage disposal (this is helpful for toilets and sewage ejector pumps too). Examples of items that should never go down the drain, even with a garbage disposal, include:
- Coffee grinds
- Banana peels
- Potato peels
- Cooking oils and grease
- Onion skins
- Dry foods that expand when wet (rice, oatmeal, etc.)
- Corn cobs
- Fruit pits
Depending on the garbage disposal model in question, other items may be forbidden, like meat bones or other kinds of vegetable matter. The concern is that they will form a solid paste that clogs the waste channel, especially if grease enters the mix.
Residents must also be reminded to:
- Always use plenty of water when flushing waste through a disposal.
- Let the water run for a moment after using the disposal.
- Feed the garbage disposal slowly, letting some waste grind before adding more.
Enroll in Sanitary Plumbing’s drain-cleaning service
Even without the installation of garbage disposals or their improper use, clogs can frequently occur in old waste piping. That’s why Sanitary Plumbing offers labor service agreements for drain cleaning. You can sign up for regular drain maintenance to help prevent clogs that could cause major disruption in your building.