Food waste sucks, but no matter how hard we try, most of us end up throwing out some food.
So if and when food does go to waste, the best thing to do is to make sure it doesn’t end up in a landfill. In some locations (like where I live), the city offers green bin programs with curbside yard and food waste pickup. But what option do those without city-run green bin programs have?
Composting! That’s right, no longer just for hardcore gardeners or your parents’ hippy friends, composting is becoming more popular as a way to avoid filling our landfills with carbon gas-emitting food waste, while also creating a rich food source for the home garden.
The problem? Composting takes time. In fact, it can take you up to a few months to fully compost food in a traditional composter (and that’s even after you buy worms!).
But now, there may be another answer…
Welcome To The Age of The Smart Food Waste Composter
The good news is we’re seeing a new wave of smart, automated compost systems that help the user turn food waste into compost. These new systems can compress composting time from months to days. They use internal compressors and grinders to break down the food and often have sensors to optimize the internal environment to foster microbe and nutrient growth.
Some come in economically sized countertop systems, while a couple of others look like a kitchen garbage bin or sit under your sink and connect to your plumbing system.
Most of these systems are either still in development or are just beginning to ship. And while I haven’t tested any of them yet and can’t vouch for their effectiveness, I do think -- if they work as promised -- these systems could potentially make composting a much more viable option for millions of households.
Here’s a look at five early entrants into the smart food waste composter category.
The Lomi is a countertop system that compresses and grinds food waste into compostable material. The user drops food waste into the system and pushes a button, and the Lomi will turn the waste into compostable material in less than a day. The system has an Eco and Express mode; Eco takes about 20 hours and will produce a densely rich nutrient compost, while the Express mode takes 6 hours and produces a “neutral natural fertilizer”.
One of the cool features of the Lomi is it will compost compostable plastics. Throw in those compostable plastic containers or cutlery and the system will churn it into fertilizer. The Lomi uses a replaceable carbon filter system to reduce odor, and filters need to be replaced every 3-6 months.
The Lomi is from Pela, a company that made a name for itself with compostable material phone cases. When it launched on Indiegogo this year, the Lomi easily broke the record for the most-backed product in the food waste category with nearly 19 thousand backers and $6.9 million in raised funds.
Those interested can still buy the Lomi for $399 on Indiegogo and the company says it will ship in January 2022.
While many of the new smart compost systems are from startups who launch their products on crowdfunding platforms, the new Vitamix FoodCycler FC-50 is from a name well known for its home blenders.
Here’s how Vitamix described the FoodCycler when they announced it last year: The FoodCycler FC-50 is lightweight, easy-to-use, odorless and compact. It comes with a small food-waste collecting bucket that can be moved around the kitchen – from countertop to sink – when preparing meals. The bucket is dishwasher-safe and comes with a lid, making it easy to keep the cast-iron bucket on your kitchen counter and the FoodCycler unit in a garage, laundry room or pantry..
The FC-50 can process a bucket of food in 4-8 hours. In addition to vegetable and fruit scraps, the unit will process meat, dairy products, and even bones from bones from fish or chicken.
The Vitamix FC-50 is available today for $379 on Amazon.
Unlike the Lomi or the Vitamix FC-50, the KALEA home composter sits on the floor and looks like a small garbage can. The KALEA has two main components; Food is dumped into the upper chamber, where it is shredded, and its moisture is removed (there’s also a carbon filter to remove odors). Once shredded and dried, waste then drops into the second chamber where the machine creates the optimal temperature, oxygen levels and humidity conditions to turn the waste into compost. The processed compost is ready in 48 hours and dropped into a collection tray at the bottom of the machine.
The KALEA launched on Kickstarter, and while it didn’t raise the eye-popping amount of the Lomi, the creators were able to raise a respectable €485 thousand. The first backer units were supposed to go out in December of this year, and if the updates on Kickstarter are any indication, it seems like things are mostly on track. However, if you weren’t one of the early backers and wanted to order a KALEA, you’ll have to wait until July of next year, and it will set you back €729 ($850).
The Tero is a countertop home compost machine that turns food waste into compostable powder in 3-8 hours. Like some of the other countertop machines, the Tero compresses and grinds the food, and the company claims it reduces the total volume of the material by 90%.
The product comes in two versions, the Tero and the Tero Plus. The Tero Plus does the same amount of food as the base unit, but also comes with Wi-Fi connectivity and an app that lets you track how much food waste you have processed and order filters.
The Tero was funded via a successful Kickstarter campaign and units are shipping now to early backers. You can preorder a Tero on the company’s website.
The Sepura is unique in that it is a system that replaces your under sink food disposal system and automatically separates food waste into a collection bin. The home owner or a plumber installs the Sepura system by connecting the separator unit to the sink. A separate collection bin connects to the processing unit, which takes about 8 seconds or so to grind the food and separate solids from liquids. When the collection bin is full, the user detaches it and puts the processed food into a compost pile or into a green bin.