Garbage Guzzler (aired 6/6/04)

Nearly half of all American homes have a garbage disposer. These handy kitchen devices cost anywhere from 50 dollars to well over 400.

Consumer Reports' Bob Karpel designed this two-story set-up for testing garbage disposers. Once he loads the garbage, it passes through the disposer and into clear pipes. That way he can see if any sludge gets trapped.

The disposers are also hooked up to monitors, so Bob can keep track of how much electricity they use and how much water.

All of the disposers are subjected to the same tough test — grinding up bones, which have been carefully weighed and measured.

"We were looking for two distinct things, one to see how much they would grind in a minute because if these things run a long time they're really annoying to listen to and the other was to see how finely they would grind the particles to make sure it wasn't going to get stuck in the plumbing."

Once each disposer finished grinding, Bob collected the results in a sieve.

Then this electric shaker sifted the debris.

Some of the disposers didn't do a very good job.

"You actually see some large pieces that didn't get ground at all."

But the top-rated disposer ground all the bones very finely.

"You can see in the large sieve there is almost nothing. And everything is ground very finely in the last two sieves."

The one that did such a fine job is from Viking — the continuous feed disposer. It's also the most expensive — 420 dollars.

There are other far less expensive disposers that rated very good.

Consumer Reports named one a Best Buy — this Kenmore, model number 6011.

It costs 70 dollars and did a decent job on bones and the two other foods Consumer Reports used for testing — carrots and corn.

Consumer Reports says if you have young children, you may want to consider a safer type of disposer, called a batch-feeder. It only operates when a lid is covering the disposer, so a child can't get near the whirling blades.

Both batch-feeders Consumer Reports tested rated very good. The one from Waste King costs 230 dollars. In-Sink-Erator's batch feeder is 250 dollars.

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