Updated Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2008, at 6:34 AM ET
I'm sorry to say I live in an apartment without a composter for organic waste. Given the circumstances, am I better off feeding my leftover mashed potatoes into the garbage disposal, so they don't end up in a landfill? Or should I throw them in the trash can, so they don't end up the water supply?
For years, the great garbage-disposal wars have been going on without most of us even noticing. Cities like New York—along with many governments in Europe—banned disposals altogether, arguing that the added food waste would overtax the water-treatment system. (New York removed the ban for residential kitchens in 1997.) Meanwhile, the appliance manufacturers—along with homeowners and restaurants who prefer getting rid of food through the drain—have argued that the disposal is actually a green machine, reducing the amount of trash sent to landfills.