Let’s face it, composting isn’t for everyone.
Some people live in apartments, others have limited garden space and some just don’t want to have to deal with the odour and potential mess of collecting kitchen waste.
Yet, there could be an innovative way to turn your food waste into usable compost in a much shorter amount of time.
Electric composters are a new innovation with most brands still crowdfunding, however, they could be a great solution for those who currently can’t compost their organic waste, or those who just want the process to be a little easier and a little quicker.
What Is An Electric Composter and How Do They Work?
An electric composter is a device designed to fit into kitchens, to turn organic waste into usable compost/fertilizer in a short amount of time. We’re talking about 8 – 48 hours, depending on the device.
The products available vary from compact counter-top devices to products the size of a kitchen bin.
But, how do these devices turn composting into such a quick process when the traditional method can take anywhere from six month to two years?
Well, nearly all of the electric composters available use a three-stage process of drying, grinding and cooling.
During the initial drying stage, the food waste is heated to roughly 70°C to recreate the naturally-occurring heat in compost piles. The high temperature will kill weed seeds, plant diseases and most pathogens. The waste is aerated at the same time by gentling turning it. The air is then pushed out the back of the unit through carbon filters to prevent any odour escaping. This part of the process will reduce the food waste volume.
The next part of the process is grinding. This is equivalent to turning a traditional compost pile. Once the heating process has reduced the food waste by up to 90% of its original volume, the device begins to turn the waste. This will help to further break down the waste into powder-like particulates which will easily mix with soil to release its nutrients and help plants grow.
Finally comes the cooling phase. This is fairly self-explanatory; the device simply cools down the contents which were previously heated to 70°C to make them easy to handle.
Each electric composter will work slightly differently, however all will follow this general three-stage process to break down the food waste.
What Are the Environmental Benefits to Composting?
Many of the electric composters claim to reduce your environmental footprint by half. If you already traditionally compost, however, this may not be the case as the reduction in your footprint will come from cutting out food waste.
There are a number of environmental benefits to composting. Whether it be the traditional way or using an electric composter, composting will:
- Reuse organic waste to save space in landfill.
- Prevent food waste from going to landfill where it will decompose anaerobically (without air) and produces methane.
- Help save water usage by holding moisture and reducing runoff.
- Reduce the need for chemical fertilisers. This reduces demand for commercial products, saving the environmental damage in the supply chain, as well as avoiding potentially harmful chemicals contaminating bodies of water and reducing ecosystems.
- Composting can help plants grow, meaning more carbon sequestered from the atmosphere!
How Does Electric Composting Compare to Traditional Composting?
So then, which is better, traditional compost piles or electric composters?
Well, due to the recent innovation of electric composters, there aren’t any studies available comparing the two, but there are some clear pros and cons for both.
Firstly, from an environmental point of view, traditional compost heaps require no electricity so that is definitely a bonus. However, the electric composter’s benefits centre around practicality:
- Electric composters aren’t affected by the changing seasons. Compost piles often stop working during winter months, meaning that if you live in a country with a long winter, they might take a long time to produce compost.
- Electric composters save huge amounts of space. Compost piles require garden space and a compost bin inside to collect the organic waste, and these can get very smelly. Electric composters however can take up minimal room inside and contain smells – perfect for an apartment!
- Traditional compost piles take a lot more thought and time than electric composters.
- Traditional compost piles require you to apply a bit of elbow grease to turn them.
- You can add more to electric composters and don’t have to abide by the ‘greens to browns’ ratio. Most electric composters can process meat, dairy and even some bones.
- Traditional compost heaps can attract a lot of unwanted guests from flies to rats.
There are a lot of benefits to electric composting, however, the choice is really down to the individual. Yet, with increasing urbanisation and smaller living spaces, often without gardens, it seems that electric composters might just be the future of composting.
Moreover, if you’re on a 100% renewables tariff or domestically source your electricity from renewables, you eliminate the emissions of electricity used to power your electric composter.
Current Electric Composters on the Market
- Kalea is a German company established in 2017. They starting crowdfunding on Kickstarter on the 13th October 2020, where they received over 600% of their funding goal. You can purchase a Kalea for £633-£694 through their new campaign on Indiegogo, they are aiming to have them delivered in December 2021. The Kalea composter is one of the bigger ones with a capacity of 10 litres. Kalea claims to produce real compost, as opposed to others which refer to their device’s produce as a fertilising/nutritious material for your plants. The whole process will take 48 hours.
- FoodCycler is owned by the American company Vitamix. Unfortunately, their FoodCycler is currently only available in the US and Canada, it is unclear if/when the company will release it in the UK. The product will sit nicely on a countertop claiming, ‘all you need is one cubic foot of space and a power outlet to get started’. Due to the smaller size the capacity is a smaller 2 litres, however, it comes in at a more affordable $399.95. The FoodCycler is also a quicker process, taking 4-8 hours, they claim the end result as a ‘nutrient-rich fertilizer’, as opposed to real compost, however, it can easily be mixed into your soil to help your plants grow.
- Lomi is a product by the Canadian company Pela, who produce ‘the world’s first compostable phone case’. Currently crowdfunding on Indiegogo, the smart looking counter-top device will set you back $429, with free shipping to the UK. The company are planning on beginning full production in July 2021, with estimated shipping to the UK being in September 2022. Similarly to Kalea, they claim the product will produce compost ‘at the push of a button’, in 4+ hours for express mode, 10+ hours for bioplastic mode and 20+ hours for eco mode. Despite being a countertop device, the Lomi can hold up to 3L of waste and can even compost your Pela compostable phone case! The company also claim that it barely makes a sound and is extremely energy efficient.
- Tero is a French-Canadian company based in Quebec. The Tero is another countertop device which can hold 4L of food waste. Similarly to Lomi, it claims to be quiet but has a shorter processing time of 4 to 8 hours on average. Like the FoodCycler, the device claims to produce a ‘natural fertilizer’, the company even declare that unlike traditional compost, there ‘is no presence of living microorganisms’. The company also offer a Tero Plus which has WiFi connection, meaning it can be started and controlled remotely, as well as giving you alerts for when a cycle is complete or a filter is due and detailed information on the environmental impact. The basic Tero will cost you $595 whilst the plus will cost you $695. Both models come in the option of black or white to fit into your kitchen and offer a one-year warranty. Currently the device is only available in Canada and exceptionally in the US, it is unclear whether they are planning to extend their reach anytime soon. For those ordering in Canada and the US, deliveries will be made in September 2021.
What can you put in an electric composter?
One of the benefits to an electric composter is that they can process animal products such as small fish and poultry bones, eggs and dairy products. There are some foods that you must only dispose of in smaller doses, such as those which are high in sugar, for example sweet fruits, jams and peanut butter. They cannot process hard bones such as beef and pork, or cooking oil and other fats. For the full lists check the specific product you are purchasing.
Can you store the fertiliser?
Yes! The product of the electric composters can be stored in airtight containers for over a year, so you can make fertilizer throughout winter to use when summer comes around.
How do the odour filters work?
Electric composters use activated charcoal which is proven to eliminate odours, environmentally friendly and easy to change.
How often do the odour filters need changing?
The frequency will change depending on individual usage but roughly every 3-6 months.
Do you think electric composters could be the future of food recycling? Let us know in the comments!