Can you have a garbage disposal with your septic tank or lift station?

One of the common questions we get is whether it’s OK to have a garbage disposal if you own a septic tank or lift station. More often than not, people read articles and information about things that shouldn’t be thrown or processed down the drain – and how that can be particularly harmful to a septic system or lift station. 

So what’s the answer? Is it safe? Is it dangerous? The answer is – less that the disposal is dangerous as opposed to what you throw down into it. So let’s help this answer come into a little bit clearer focus. 

The substances you always avoid, no matter what

The first thing you need to avoid throwing down a garbage disposal are things that we call FOGS – or “Fats, Oils and Greases.” FOGS are harmful to septic tanks and regular sewer line alike. They make it more difficult for the tank to break down solid waste by essentially handicapping bacteria. If you have a garbage disposal – one of the most important things to remember is to never dump any kinds of FOGs down the drain. 

The next big warning

One of the downsides to garbage disposals is that unprocessed/undigested raw food and waste enters a septic tank without ever having been digested. This creates a lot of tough-to-break down waste for the septic tank to manage. This is waste being thrown into the tank without being accompanied by human bacteria. 

That being said

Using garbage disposals are not necessarily discouraged altogether for septic tanks, but if you use a disposal, it’s highly recommended that you increase the frequency with which you get your septic system or lift station pumped and maintained. The reason for this is fairly straightforward. With the number of undigested material that you’ll be filling the tank with, your tank will have to work harder to break it down. This doesn’t just mean increased wear and tear on the tank, itself; but also a lower likelihood that certain materials are entirely broken down the way they should be – thus taking up more space in the tank.

So if you do want to use a garbage disposal – make sure you’re having your tank and lift stations cleaned and serviced on a more frequent basis. 

At the end of the day, yes – you can have a garbage disposal with your septic tank, but you need to be more diligent about exactly what you’re putting down it. When in doubt – use the trash and whatever you do – DON’T DUMP fats, oils and grease down the drain! Good luck!