West Oak Lane pilot program tests impact of food-waste disposals on citywide trash volume

In West Oak Lane for the ceremonial launch of a new Streets Department program called “Clean Kitchen, Green Community” on Thursday, Mayor Michael Nutter noted that he’s done a lot of press conferences during his City Hall tenure.

“I never imagined I’d be having one about garbage disposers, though,” he said a few feet away from a plate of condemned chicken wings, carrots, broccoli heads and celery sticks at Special T’s event hall near 72nd and Ogontz avenues.

However, that’s exactly what he, state Rep. Dwight Evans and Streets Commissioner Clarena Tolson did alongside Jerry Ryder, president emeritus of InSinkErator, the Wisconsin manufacturer which will donate 200 food-waste disposal units to help the city reduce trash volume and divert waste from landfills.

“Food waste is 10 percent of the total city waste [volume],” said Tolson, noting that the pilot program targeted a sanitation route in both West Oak Lane and Grays Ferry. “That’s a lot of trash.”

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Cost savings, environmental benefits cited

Between the two routes, trash collected from 1,000 homes will be studied to assess how the installation-and-education push reduces food-waste volume. The ultimate goal of the six-month pilot is to reduce the amount which goes to landfills as its breakdown results in greenhouse gases.

Tolson estimated 40 percent of homes in Philadelphia have disposal units, but many don’t use them properly. The addition of 100 units per neighborhood will give the Streets Department a decent sample size to test the reduction in waste from households where disposals are installed and properly used, she said.

“Your kitchen will smell better and will attract fewer rodents,” said Nutter of ancillary effects of proper disposer use. “This partnership with InSinkErator is an example of how the private and public sectors can work together to improve the city’s sustainability efforts and residents’ quality-of-life. We hope this pilot program will point us toward saving tax dollars and a better environment.”

City Water Commissioner Howard Neukrug noted that disposer use takes “liquid waste out of trash trucks and puts it in our gravity driven sewer system that’s designed to utilize it for environmental benefits. … This approach is truly more sustainable and allows us to reduce house waste, reuse the sink waste for energy and recycle the waste into biosolids pellets for beneficial farming uses.”

Said Ryder of InSinkErator about greening efforts like this one, “We like to think it begins one sink at a time.”

To date, an estimated 20 homes in West Oak Lane and 60 in Grays Ferry have signed up for the free disposal units.

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