The Controversy of Garburators

August 17, 2023

If you are in a newly built residential complex in the City of Vancouver, you may notice that a garburator is no longer included. We reached out to Metro Vancouver to ask about garburators and if it was recommended or not, they provided us with the following information:

Metro Vancouver and its member municipalities currently spend an estimated $2.7 million dollars per year to repair damage caused by fats, oils and grease in the sewer system.

Metro Vancouver recommends that food waste should be disposed in food scraps ‘green bin’ collection programs rather than into sinks and drains with food grinders.Food grinders add additional solids to the wastewater stream that subsequently need to be removed at wastewater treatment plants.Food wastes that contain fats, oils and grease (“FOG”) from food grinders contribute to the clogging of private and public sewer lines.

They do not encourage the installation of garburators. They have cited those other Canadian cities such as Ottawa, Toronto, Cochrane Aberta, and the District of Squamish have completely banned them.

Should you use a garburator?

It is entirely up to you. As professional plumbers, we see how some families simply cannot live without garburators and understand the value they bring. On the other hand, we also see how frustrating they can be when they jam, create clogs, or the motor dies prematurely.

If you have a garburator and are not using it or not planning to use it any time soon, we strongly recommend that you have it removed. A garburator sitting idle for a long time often seizes up and causes leaks under your kitchen sink. For rental properties, this can be a concern if one tenant uses it and the next one does not.

Garburator and Drain Safe vs Non-Safe Items

The list below is not just for garburators, it is good practice for all the drains in your home. We have added the most common items that we have witnessed to cause clogs or that we are asked about, it is possible there may be something missing. If you are wondering if something should go down the drain but are not sure if it will wreak havoc, throw it the garbage or compost instead.

YES! (You can put these items down the garburator in small quantities)
  • Fruit scraps
  • Non-starchy vegetable scraps
  • Cooked meat
  • Mixed food leftovers
  • Ice
NO! (Do not put down your garburator)
  • Coffee grounds
  • Pasta, rice, bread, oats – starchy foods
  • Animal bones
  • Pits and seeds
  • Potato peels
  • Egg shells
  • Lard, fat, grease, oil
  • Peanut butter
  • Stringy or fibrous vegetables
  • Corn husks or cobs
  • Sea food shells like oyster, crab, lobster, shrimp
  • Plastic, glass, or any other non-food items
  • Chemicals or paints

Why are these foods on the naughty list?

These foods either do not decompose quick enough, accumulate, get stuck, or jam your garburator. Large quantities of starchy foods gum up your drains and garburator, stringy/fibrous vegetables get tangled up and cause clogs, fats harden, and so on. They are problematic and it is best for your garburator to avoid them.

Chances are you have put a few of these items down your garburator without any issues, and we do not blame you! But we do ask you to keep in mind that a garburator is NOT designed to break down shells, husks, starchy foods, etc., and doing so will wear down the motor a lot faster. Once the motor is out, you will need to replace the whole thing.

Overworking a garburator can lead to seizing and an inevitable leak, once your garburator starts to leak the only repair option is a replacement.