A garbage disposal system is a largely ignored piece of kitchen equipment until it stops working. Whether you’ve got a disposal unit that grinds and drains waste, or a food pulping unit that eventually deposits semi-dry waste into a receptacle, there are some things you can do to keep your unit running strong.
Know your equipment
The type of garbage disposal unit that connects to your sink at home is vastly different than a food pulping system that also has a connected dewatering unit. Some units can handle bones, plastic utensils, or even aluminum foil, while others cannot. Even if your unit can handle bones, for example, they are insoluble waste and putting them in the drain isn’t advisable. And it’s not enough for you, and you alone, to know the equipment, which leads us to…
All too often in foodservice, the dishwasher or general utility employee is the person who receives the least amount of training. If the service manual for your disposal system says it can handle plastic utensils, jelly packets, straws, or even aluminum foil, that’s great! But what happens when an employee sees aluminum foil go into the unit and thinks soda cans or other metals can go in there? You may think it’s a bit of a stretch, stranger things can happen in a commercial kitchen. So train your employees on the proper use of equipment. Post signs to remind workers what cannot go into your disposal system.
Feed waste continuously instead of packing it all in at once. That means using the disposal as soon as there is waste to be ground up, not waiting until there is a pile. Thicker items should be added at a slower rate that lets the disposal break them up. Fibrous items like celery or corn husks and hard items like oyster shells may be okay to put in your disposal unit, but they are undoubtedly harder on the machine. It may be in your best interest to simply toss those items into the trash.
A quick note: if you are performing any task inside the disposal that requires you to have your hands inside the unit (like changing an impact bar or impeller), abide by OSHA’s lockout/tagout procedure. If you like having hands, don’t ignore this step. Switching the breaker off is not enough. Another employee may come by and think he or she is helping by turning the power back on. Any number of things could go wrong, so take proper precautions.
Check your unit for leaks often. Disposals require water to run, and there are a whole lot of problems associated with leaks. It is easier to spot a leak if you look before a shift begins, when everything in the cleanup area is dry.
Make sure your unit is secured to the sink and, if applicable, that its legs are properly attached and level. Excessive vibration is hard on the unit. If the disposal is noticeably louder than usual, that could also indicate a problem.
Check that the baffle, sometimes called a splash guard, is in good shape and is attached properly. This is the vinyl piece that keeps everything from falling into the disposal.
Examine your impact bars for wear. They may be reversible depending on your model, and flipping them can extend the life of your disposal.
If your disposal jams, be sure to turn off the power as mentioned above, and then check that the rotor is still rotating easily. You may need to use a dejamming wrench, also sometimes called a dejamming prong, to make sure the rotor isn’t jammed up.
Here are some items to avoid putting in the disposal:
- Large bones
- Grease, oils, and fats
After you are done grinding up waste for the day, allow the disposal to continue to run so that it can clear out debris. If the disposal is stopped too early, the water will drain and any leftover waste may harden and bind. This waste could stop the unit from starting the next time it’s needed. This is generally only an issue with lower HP motors, but it can still happen.
Your disposal may be designed for heavy use, but avoiding items that are harder on the unit will extend its life, and help keep your dish line moving fast, so you can get back to serving customers.