The One Lesson I Should Have Taken Away From Being a Dishwasher: A Tribute to the Humble Garbage Disposal

As I mentioned in previous posts, I worked as a dishwasher for my first semester of college. If you have worked as a dishwasher (or even if you haven’t) it involves throwing a lot of food waste down the garbage disposal. One thing that I did not really appreciate about my dishwashing job was that it taught me one key lesson: that someone invented garbage disposals for a good reason, and I should always use the garbage disposal when washing dishes, even if food isn’t totally covering up those dishes.

The reason I am waxing so poetic about garbage disposals is because I, for the umpteenth time, washed my food-encrusted plates and utensils in the drain that isn’t the garbage disposal. While I should have put that food down the garbage disposal, I didn’t, and my folks had already had a plumber come earlier in the day to fix the drain where my pretty long hair clumped and clogged up that beautiful drain, making it difficult to drain all the water from that 20-minute shower I took.

As a dishwasher, at the end of the day, whatever leftover food didn’t get eaten, I had to throw out. Bowls of perfectly good BBQ sauce, chicken tenders, hell, even friggin’ guacamole. I nearly shed a tear the day the chefs tossed a barely eaten bowl of beautiful grass-green guacamole, speckled with dainty little tomato pieces and onions, all with a jalapeno finish. I wished at that moment I could have broken the rules and brought my own Tupperware so that I could scoop up that guacamole while no one, not even the head chef, was looking. I could have made myself a decent study snack for the all-nighter I was bound to pull that evening I dumped that verdant mixture of goodness down the garbage disposal. At the time I was just focused on getting a paycheck. Who cared if all that delicious food left uneaten went down the disposal? At the same time I wondered why I hadn’t taken that philosophy of waste class sooner. Then again, it was a seminar only open to juniors and seniors, so I’d have to forgive myself there.

Anyway…so yes, we had spaghetti that night and I cleaned off the dishes and noticed the spaghetti, chunky marinara were floating on top of the water in the non-disposal compartment. Crap. None of it was going down the drain, so I pulled the plug up a bit and let everything go down. It still wasn’t going down. A little water, but not everything. My mom saw what happened and looked like she was going to cry since we had already spent quite a bit of money on the plumber. So we used the bathroom plunger (gross) to get the food down, then after everything finally went down, my dad had me put baking soda and vinegar down the drain to clean everything up since we had just used the bathroom plunger in a food-oriented area. I thought I saved the day, but it turns out, I didn’t, because we’re probably going to have to shell out another pretty sum of cash to get the plumber to come out once again to fix a problem I could have easily not let happen. After crying for a good thirty minutes about how I failed to listen to my mom after she told me many times to always use the spaghetti drainer in the garbage disposal, as well as the grate that goes over the actual drain, I decided to turn this sour situation into something sweet and savory, a humble lesson to remember for next time. Next time, I will appreciate the garbage disposal and use it to my advantage. According to a Wikipedia article on garbage disposals (I just had to pay the proper homage to this humble invention. Awwww, the garbage disposal is blushing now, how cute. It should win an Academy Award.),

the premise behind the proper use of a disposer is to effectively regard food scraps as liquid (averaging 70% water, like human waste), and use existing infrastructure (underground sewers and wastewater treatment plants) for its management. Modern wastewater plants are effective at processing organic solids into fertilizer products (known as biosolids), with advanced facilities also capturing methane for energy production.

“Garbage disposal unit”.

Basically, garbage disposals keep all that food from going into a landfill. So much food goes into landfills and releases methane, a toxic greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change and a larger hole in the ozone layer. While there are other alternatives, such as composting, I haven’t done it for a long time because it attracts bugs and can release some pretty bad smelling odors if done improperly. So I’m resolved to just not cause any more plumbing drama and just use the garbage disposal and the strainer that protects it. This brilliant article talks more about the environmental benefits of using garbage disposals.

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