A Case for Not Throwing Food in the Toilet

Plumbers agree that your food scraps should be in one of these, not flushed down the toilet. Photo: Leslie Richards/stock.xchngWhether you find the practice of throwing away food via the toilet to be perfectly normal or perfectly disgusting, it seems that a lot of people do it. Some do it to minimize trash volume or prevent lingering odors in the trash bin; others do it because they don't have garbage disposers and don't want to clog the kitchen drain; and some folks claim it's just something they've always done. Well, it turns out there are some very good reasons not to flush food scraps. And if you're looking for supporters of the practice, you won't find them among plumbers, wastewater experts or environmentalists.

Flushing Food Creates Clogs

If you're familiar with home plumbing systems, you know that the kitchen drain and toilet drain both lead to the same place: the main drain that connects to the city's sewer line or your own septic tank. So why is it ok to dispose of food in the kitchen drain and not the toilet? For one thing, food that successfully flows down the kitchen drain is in small pieces; it has to be to pass through the disposer or the drain strainer covering the sink hole. This means it's less likely to create a clog somewhere in the drain line. Flushing large bits of food down the toilet risks a clog, in either the toilet itself or the drain piping. The result? You may need to find a good plumber, fast. 

A Toilet is Not a Trash Can

Toilets are designed to remove human waste and toilet paper. Period. Solid waste readily breaks down in water; solid food does not. Neither does all the other stuff people tend to throw away in the toilet, like cleaning wipes, tissues, dental floss and cigarette butts. Municipal governments go to great lengths to educate residents about the high costs and stresses placed on wastewater treatment systems simply from people flushing the wrong stuff down the toilet. If you're in the habit of throwing away food in the toilet, how careful are you about not flushing other things? And if you've taught your kids to do this, how careful are they being?

Flushing Food Wastes Water

A toilet uses anywhere from 1.6 to 5 gallons of water or more per flush. Now, would you ever drop something in the trash, go grab a large bucket, fill it with fresh water, then walk outside and dump it into the gutter? Of course not. But that's no different from flushing unwanted food, which is perfectly appropriate for an open trash container (or better yet, composting). When disposing of food like this, the only way not to waste so much water is to mix the food with stuff that has to be flushed. And if you're doing that, trash definitely is not your biggest problem.

Philip Schmidt is a Networx writer. 

Updated January 10, 2018.

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