Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Grinding Abroad

The more conversations we have with various garbage disposal experts the more we realize that the NYC Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) concerns are unfounded. Yesterday we chatted with Frank Bryant, a member of Insinkerator’s International Department and someone who is very familiar with the status of disposers world-wide.

According to Bryant, many countries in Europe had very tough restrictions vis-à-vis grinders due to worries about negative impacts on sewer systems, water usage and the environment. However, after various studies and reexaminations of previous statues many countries now not only allow for disposers but incentive their use.

In England, the cities of Herefordshire and Worcestershire grant rebates of over $150 US to citizens that install disposers. In Norway, where the devices were once illegal, the city of Bardu, in an effort to manage the biodegradable waste of the community, began subsidizing grinders in 1998. The Swedish city of Surahammar has installed 3000 grinders in its citizens’ homes and Kalmar, using the European Union-granted funds, has provided disposers in each of its apartments. Certain other cities in Sweden, like Linkoping and Eskilstuna, have even commissioned their own studies of disposers and have found that there is no negative impact on the sewer system or the environment.

Other once skeptical countries like the Netherlands have also reversed their stances on garbage disposals. In 1998, the Dutch Minister for the Environment recognized that disposers are environmentally friendly appliances and that they do not cause adverse technical problems for sewage systems. Disposals are now sold in that country.

Italy too, once opposed to grinders, has changed its tune. In 2002, the Italian federal government passed a law endorsing disposers as a solid waste management option, allowing them as long as the local municipality consented. The city of Gaglianico now grants a 30% reduction in the waste collection taxes to citizens that install food waste disposers and the city of Mogliano offers a 50% tax reduction. Capri, in the Naples Province, gives a $180 US rebate to those who use food waste disposers.

As garbage disposer expert Professor Ham pointed out, the international community, after examining certain misconceptions, is becoming more amenable to the devices. Like the DEP, these various European countries were once worried that their sewers would become overloaded and that their treatment plants would be overburdened. None of this has happened.

We concur that New York City is a unique place. However, we don’t feel that the city is so singular that evidence from around the U.S. and the world is inapplicable. The DEP needs to step out of its echo chamber and realize the now internationally-recognized truth about food waste disposers.