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New Garbage Disposal Runs on Water Power

April 05, 1998|From a Times Staff Writer

Consider, for a moment, the lowly garbage disposal:

Out of sight, out of mind, asking little, grinding much, making itself indispensable in the modern kitchen.

But pity it too:

Since its invention 50 years ago, the evolution of the humble disposal has been frozen in its own jam-up. It's the same basic machine after all these years, powered by bigger motors.

Until now, that is, with the advent of Hydro-Maid, a garbage disposal that runs on water, not electricity. You read that right--water, not watts.

The Hydro-Maid disposal--9 1/2 pounds of space-age plastic and stainless steel--uses water under normal household pressure to grind up kitchen waste.

Think of it as a food processor under the sink, its manufacturer says. Five stainless steel blades, driven by a water-powered piston, oscillate back and forth, mincing the food waste.

The technology enables Hydro-Maid to handle most disposal no-nos: chicken bones, nutshells, cornhusks, avocado pits, even pop-top tabs, according to its maker, Environmental Systems and Solutions Inc. of Draper, Utah.

Hydro-Maid is quieter by 20 decibels than electric disposals and uses about the same amount of water, said Ron LaFord, president of ESSI, which bought the patents for the device from its inventor, a NASA engineer.

There is at least one drawback, LaFord said: The machine is slower by a third than the conventional disposal.

After 15 years of development and a year or two of testing in 200 homes in Utah, the Hydro-Maid made its debut at January's International Housewares Show in Chicago.

It became an instant darling of writers and TV crews fascinated when a Perrier bottle, cap included, was dropped into Hydro-Maid and ground to bits.

The new disposal may have been a big deal at the housewares show, but it drew a big yawn from the biggest player in the disposal business, In-Sink-Erator.

"Our files on this product go back 15 years, and it's very impractical," said David MacNair, vice president of marketing for In-Sink-Erator.

"It uses an enormous amount of water, according to our tests, and takes five times as long as an electric disposer to grind the same amount of food.

"It is an innovation, but we don't think it will work," MacNair said.

LaFord said that, while marketing deals are worked out to put Hydro-Maid in major retailers, the company is taking telephone orders at (888) 824-9376. The cost is $299, before a $60 rebate. It comes with a 10-year unconditional warranty.

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