With five states now either establishing diversion goals for food waste diversion from landfills or outright banning commercial food waste from landfills, restaurant operators and suppliers are sometimes curious about what options are allowed in their jurisdiction. Foodservice establishments may also voluntarily look for alternatives to landfilling their organic waste. Either way, they often inquire whether their jurisdiction allows disposers or pulpers.

Michael KelemanMichael Keleman, Manager of Environmental Engineering, InSinkErator, Racine, Wis.Knowing which authority has jurisdiction over such matters represents the first, and sometimes most perplexing, issue. It might be a city or town, or it could be the county that has jurisdiction. In addition, sometimes the local health department decides what equipment a foodservice operator can use. Other times the local sewer use ordinance established by the wastewater utility may have precedence. In most cases municipal websites list a city department as the wastewater authority. In other cases, the wastewater utility may exist as a sanitary board, commission or simply as the wastewater authority.

In a few specialized instances, a state or county law might supersede all considerations. For example, the Massachusetts State Plumbing Code (248 CMR 10.10 (8) d.) requires all foodservice establishments serving 20 or more patrons to have a commercial disposer. In Washington, D.C., the Health Department established rule 2607.2, which states, “… each food
establishment served by a sanitary sewer and conducting any activity or activities which generate food wastes shall have
and use one (1) or more commercial food waste grinders.”

Finding the actual ordinance is often only one click away. Most major municipalities and county governments publish an electronic version of their codes. Simply start with an internet search for a city or county’s code and that will link you to the most recently codified version of local regulations. Then search for key words, such as grinder, disposer or pulper, to quickly find if a particular jurisdiction mandates their use.

Even though the perception is that sometimes disposers and pulpers are not allowed in commercial establishments, most municipal codes are absent of language on this equipment. Occasionally, during the design or construction phase of a foodservice establishment, people are informed they are not allowed to have these appliances. If a code search does not yield a specific restriction or prohibition, designers, consultants and sales representatives should request what regulation prevents the installation. Without a specific written regulation, prohibiting disposers and pulpers has no legal basis.

While the landscape of code language on pulpers and disposers is widely varied, for those designers and operators interested, a few minutes on the internet is all it takes to find regulations specific to a community. Given this environment, operators and designers should be vigilant in their research before making decisions about excluding disposers and pulpers in foodservice establishments simply because they were told, “Disposers are not allowed.”