Composting Robot Can Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle Your Scraps

By Boonsri Dickinson | April 21, 2009 4:00 pm

nature-mill.jpgWe never eat 27 percent of the food that exists on the shelves in grocery stores or that is served in restaurants and kitchens. There is one way to save the fate of wasted food ending up in landfills. You’ve all heard of it, but probably never tried it: composting.

People who do compost know that it smells terrible and requires a host of bacteria, earthworms, and fruit flies to turn into soil—which is why apartment and city dwellers typically avoid the practice. But now those problems may be eliminated. The San Francisco-based company NatureMill is selling a composting “robot” to make composting hassle-free, and the machine might soon become an American household mainstay.

All you have to do is plug it in, and the robot does all the work. The machine can chomp on up to 5 pounds of food a day— turning dinner leftovers into soil in less than two weeks.

The top chamber decomposes the food as the microbes heat up the mush until the waste has fully fermented. It’s then dumped into a lower bin. The nitrogen-rich soil is left to dry until it is ready to be poured into a garden. A carbon-filter eliminates (most of) the odor, but the cultures in the compost produce a slight mushroom-y smell. A fan brings in air to feed the cultures with oxygen so they can consume the waste quickly.

For what it’s worth, over its lifetime, the robot can save two tons of waste from ever hitting the landfills. Not so bad for a $400 gadget. Click here to watch how it works.

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Image: flickr/ jbloom

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Food, Nutrition, & More Food
MORE ABOUT: compost, food, robot, waste
  • iexpectedbetterofdiscovermagazine

    “People who do compost know that it smells terrible…”

    If the compost pile is properly managed, this is not true. It just needs to be turned once every couple of weeks or so to allow aerobic bacteria to flourish. Anaerobic bacteria are what causes the bad smell. A compost pile that gets aerated once in a while does not produce any unpleasant odor.

    “…requires a host of bacteria, earthworms, and fruit flies…”

    The bacteria required to turn kitchen scraps into compost occurs naturally in soil. All you really need to do when creating your pile is throw a couple handfuls of dirt in there and then let the bacteria do their thing. Earthworms are not a required part of normal pile composting. Vermicomposting, of course, requires them, but a bin to which the worms do not have access will compost kitchen scraps just fine without their help. As for fruit flies, they are also not a requirement of the composting process. They are naturally attracted to some of the things that end up in a pile though, so just keep some grass clipping or leaves next to your pile and cover up any exposed fruit or vegetable matter when you add it. Problem solved.

  • Christina Viering

    A great Gift idea!

  • Science_Boy

    I think it just makes much more sense to have the compostable material separated and collected on a community-wide basis for large scale composting than it does for each household to try to do it themselves.

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