Disposing of a Garbage Disposal: 10 Helpful Tips

Waste disposal leak under sink, broken garbage chopper

There are some things that people know how to dispose of without help. Everyone can figure out how to toss a can in the recycling bin, put lawn clippings in with green waste, and throw leftovers in the trash. If it isn’t intuitive, you can just ask a neighbor what they do, right?

Garbage disposals are, ironically, one of the harder things to dispose of. You can’t just toss it in the trash and hope for the best. You do actually need to dispose of it safely and correctly. Since you probably can’t ask your neighbor for help figuring out this one, read this article instead. Here are 10 tips that will help you dispose of your garbage disposal quickly and safely!

1. Check If It’s Repairable

If you’re planning on disposing of your disposal, you’re probably already confident that it is broken. It might have broken beyond repair, or it might have just not been worth the repairs when compared to a new garbage disposal.

Whatever your reasoning, it would be a good idea to check with a professional to see if it could be repairable. Even if you’re not the one to repair it, you can use that as an advertisement to sell it, donate it, or offer it for free. People would prefer to know if they’re picking up scrap or a potentially useable appliance.

2. See If The Maintenance Guy Wants to Take It

This isn’t likely, but it’s always worth a shot. The maintenance person who removed the disposal may be open to taking it for an apprentice to practice on, to salvage parts, or to use as scrap. If they don’t want to take it, don’t push them, but you may as well make the offer.

3. If It Works, Donate It

The worker is installing a household waste shredder for the kitchen sink.

There are a surprising number of places that will accept a functional garbage disposal, even if it’s old. Goodwill, the Salvation Army, Deseret Industries, Habitat for Humanity, and many other thrift or charity stores will accept old household appliances. They can use these old appliances to raise funds or to help build and repair homes in the community.

Donation and Upcycling

This is a great example of “upcycling” old appliances and electronics. Objects are melted down and made into something totally new when they’re recycled, but anything upcycled can be refurbished and reused immediately. This means less energy is spent on the material, less time is spent before the item is back in use, and the item is more accessible to people living on a low income.

What Are Upcycled And Donated Items Used For?

Upcycled and donated items are used by people who need to save money or who want to take a little more strain off the environment by reusing things. While items like shirts, pants, or jewelry are likely to be bought by either group, items like garbage disposals are more likely to be purchased or used by people who need to save money while repairing or building a home.

This is why some charities like Habitat for Humanity will accept donations of garbage disposals directly. These types of charities or foundations can repair or reuse appliances to make or refurbish houses that can be donated or afforded by people on a low income. Your old appliance could end up making a new house feel cozy for somebody else!

4. If It Doesn’t Work, Donate It To A Trade School

Trade schools are where students go to study careers like plumbing, construction, welding, mechanics, carpentry, electrical work, or other maintenance jobs. Some high schools offer trade classes to give students a head start. These schools, which provide valuable service to the community, deserve all the support they can get. You might have hired a former student to remove your garbage disposal!

With this in mind, you might want to give them a call and offer your old garbage disposal for them to practice on. After all, they don’t need to worry about breaking something that’s already destined for the trash. They can run diagnostics and handle disposing of whatever’s left when they’re done. If they’re interested in taking it, this is a good deal for both of you.

5. Recycle The Individual Parts

Woman putting lots of scrap metal in container to be recycled

If your local recycling center doesn’t take the entire disposal, which is likely, you can dismantle it and recycle the individual components. Plastic can go in with the plastics, metal with the metal, and you can dispose of it accordingly.

6. Sell It Online

Did you know that you can sell that old garbage disposal online? Craigslist has a surprising number of garbage disposals for sale, and many other local selling pages will have them, too. If you have a functioning garbage disposal or any functioning parts from it, you can try listing it online to see if anyone is interested in buying it from you.

How to Find Your Local Online Markets

Many people will know of existing online marketplaces near their homes, but people who have recently moved may not be aware of which sites are used in their new area. Searching “selling (fill in the blank) online (state name)” is a good place to start.

Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace are universally popular, but local sites may get more traffic depending on your area. For example, Garage Sale (virtual garage sale) is used in Oregon, while KSL Classifieds is popular in Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming.

How To Sell Used Garbage Disposals Online

Listing an item for sale online is easy. You make a post, offer the item for a fair price, and try to give honest details about the item.

Be prepared for offers lower than the price you listed the item for. Normally you can hold onto a higher price, but garbage disposals aren’t the hottest commodity on the online market, so you should stay open to negotiation. After all, even a few dollars is more than you’d have gotten from donating it.

If nobody takes the disposal within a week or two, you can always change the listing to free and see what happens. Alternatively, you can donate it. You won’t be any worse off than you were to begin with.

7. Put It Online For Free

Portrait of a man using mobile phone with laptop at cafe

It might seem crazy to post your broken garbage disposal as free to any taker, but people have had weirder things taken off their hands. Facebook freecycle pages, neighborhood pages, recycling groups, craigslist, and other neighborhood pages are full of people with very specific needs or interests.

While you’re already on these pages to list your old garbage disposal, try seeing what else you can give away. Old couches, end tables, computer monitors, and many other things will be valuable to the nice people online, and you can put them on the curb for pickup. Put a “free” sign on there and they might be gone within a few hours.

8. Give Or Sell It To A Scrap Dealer

Garbage disposals are made primarily of metal and plastic, which are two items that can be easily scrapped. To scrap your garbage disposal you can either disassemble it yourself or take it to a scrap company. Either way, be careful not to injure yourself or get old contaminants spread around your work area.

If you do it yourself, you’ll want to sort the pieces into metal and plastic groups in a very similar manner to recycling. Once this is done you can drop it off at your local scrap company. Be extra cautious not to injure yourself with the blades or other sharp metal parts inside of the machine! An extra few dollars is not worth an ER bill.

If dismantling an old garbage disposal at home doesn’t appeal to you, you can drop the disposal off intact with the scrap company. Most scrap yards will pay you a couple of dollars for leaving appliances with them, so you can make money off of a broken disposal just as easily as a good one.

The amount you’ll be offered depends on the amount of metal in the disposal. The more metal there, the more valuable it is to the scrap yard.

9. Put It In the Trash

As much as we love recycling, and as important as it is for people to recycle appliances and electronics, sometimes the trash really is the best option for something. Garbage disposals are one of those rare items that can be thrown in the trash without too much guilt. Old food contaminants and bacteria can make them a pain to recycle, and there isn’t anything in them that is inherently toxic to the land or water supply.

Local Garbage Code

Make sure that your local garbage code allows for you to throw the disposal into your garbage can, or you might end up with a fine. Some cities require it to be brought to a local landfill. This can be done by a garbage service, a helpful neighbor, or you.

Make the Trip Worth Your Time

If you’re going to make the trip to the landfill, ask around your neighborhood and family to see if anyone else has specialty items that need to be disposed of at the same time. Remember that electronics like computers, cell phones, microwaves, and similar items also cannot be thrown in your household trash and must be recycled, so you might get a pretty decent carload.

If you have kids, you can turn this into a field trip or science activity! Your kids and their friends can learn about waste disposal, recycling, different careers, community maintenance, and all sorts of interesting things that will be useful to them as adults.

10. Take It Apart For A Science Project (Carefully!)

Kids having fun watching an experiment at a science centre

Ever since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, families around the world have had to adjust to their children doing school from home. While this can have its downsides, the change has also made space for fun new bonding activities between children and parents. One of these activities is home science projects!

If you’d like to show your children a useful new skill as a science project, taking apart some old appliances is not the worst approach you could take. Surprisingly, garbage disposals are one of the safer things to use for this. Electronics like microwaves can give deadly shocks and computers hold toxic materials, but garbage disposals are just mechanical.

Take It Apart Safely

Even if there are no toxic materials or deadly shocks putting you at risk as you dismantle an old garbage disposal, there are still blades and sharp pieces of metal or plastic inside of it. In addition to this, garbage disposals exist to grind up old food and debris in drains, so they can end up full of nasty bacteria that can ruin your day if you get a cut.

With this in mind, use caution taking the machine apart. It should all be done by an adult, the adult should wear sturdy gloves and use the right tools, and kids should be cautioned about safety before, during, and after the activity. Remember, fun things are more fun when they don’t end in an emergency room visit.

Talk To Your Kids About The Trades, Inventing, and Engineering

Your kids have a rare opportunity to learn about the technicians who helped remove this garbage disposal, the people who designed it, the people who might repair it, and about mechanics and inventors in general. If they want to learn more when you’re done, encourage it! Take them to tech schools, research inventions they’re curious about, and take advantage of the opportunity to get them involved in a future that could be great for them.

Recycle the Parts When You’re Done

In addition to teaching your kids the importance of science and technical innovation, you can teach them about recycling and being a responsible citizen. Garbage disposals might not be the easiest thing to recycle, but you can still separate the parts and organize a neighborhood field trip to the landfill. Kids love visiting the dump!

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