Am I Right to be Terrified of my Garbage Disposal?

Millie Jackson Rowe
3 min readJan 20, 2021
Photo by Anne Nygård on Unsplash

Growing up watching movies in 1980’s England, I knew that there were only two things in this world that could kill me; sharks and garbage disposal units.

As I grew older I discovered that the possibility of death by shark probably wasn’t going to happen for me, but garbage disposal was an entirely different story. What a horrific kitchen appliance that seems to have only one purpose - mangling the hands of anyone who comes close.

I’ve lived in England, Belgium and the UAE and I never had to face my garbage disposal fears, but in 2018 I moved to the US and my death by sink nightmare began again.

The first thing I did when I moved into my New York apartment was buy a washing up bowl, which is not something that is particularly common in the US. All of my food waste went straight into the bin and I hoped that in this case, out of sight would indeed be out of mind, but it wasn’t.

The switch to turn on the torture device was in the cupboard under the sink and I lived in constant fear that a can of polish would fall against it taking my right arm with it.

I moved everything away from that side of the cupboard, but it was no good, the possibility was always there taunting me, every time I went to the sink I pictured women screaming, trapped and covered in blood, understandably and it didn’t make me feel good at all.

My second US home (this time in Connecticut) also had a garbage disposal unit, but a different kind, this one didn’t have a switch to operate it, instead to make the death blades turn, you had to use some kind of magnet operated screw top.

This did actually make me feel a little better, I was comforted to know that I couldn’t accidentally maim myself while trying to turn on the light, but I still never used the thing and my trusty washing-up bowl did a good job of helping me ignore it.

Until that time I lifted up my beloved bowl and a spoon fell into the plug hole. Oh the horror. Theoretically, I could easily have reached down into the sink and removed the spoon, but of course that was never going to happen.

After giving careful consideration to just how necessary it was to have access to a sink. I spent 15 minutes with some plastic grilling tongs trying to grab hold of the spoon, before resorting to a ladle with chopsticks stuck on the end and a huge amount of duct tape, retrieving the trapped silverware in an incredibly elaborate game of ‘go fish’, but it’s better to be safe and sorry right?

All of my irrational neuroses aside, it’s not out of the realms of possibility that something awful might happen, (according to my brief Google search) on average, nearly 1,000 people are injured in garbage disposal incidents each year in the US, and that is just far too many for my liking.

And now here we are, in 2021 and I’ve moved into my third US home and we’re back to garbage disposal with a switch on the wall and I’m torn between wanting to face my fears and make friends with the infernal contraption, and just ignoring it again. Or perhaps I should just speak to my buildings maintenance department and see if I can have the thing removed.

I’m starting to think that sharks aren’t so bad after all…

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Millie Jackson Rowe

Writer, Artist, Activist, Explorer. I love tea, hate the outdoors and overthink everything. More me: www.milliejacksonrowe.com