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How Composting Has Gone High-Tech

How Composting Has Gone High-Tech

We tried four new ways to make things rot that are easier, cooler, and smell a lot less than the old hippie ways.

For about as long as people have been growing food, they have been composting it. But in a world that is becoming more and more focused on cleanliness and convenience, many people find the task of turning food waste into fertilizer for plants and gardens to be too time-consuming, too “granola,” and just too gross.

“People thought composting was this stinky, time-consuming project that only made sense if you had a big backyard,” said Friday Apaliski, a “sustainability concierge” in San Francisco who helps people make their homes greener. She thinks that “people are starting to get how great composting really is.”

Apaliski said Friday that composting has been seen as a very smelly job that takes a lot of time and only makes sense if you have a big backyard.

In fact, new technology has come out that makes composting easier, faster, and cooler. Some composting systems are now small enough to fit on your kitchen counter and nice enough to look at every day.

With the growing popularity of houseplants (compost is just as good for Instagram-friendly succulents as it is for an old-fashioned vegetable garden) and the desire to reduce methane-making food waste, more Americans are trying out the ancient practice. The 2019 Composting in America report says that the number of American communities with composting programs grew by 65% between 2014 and 2019. Vermont was the first state in the country to make composting a law this summer.

If you have to do it, why not do it as nicely as you can? Here are our four favorite new products that make composting at home faster, easier, or even more fun by using smart design and cutting-edge technology.

How Composting Has Gone High-Tech

For lazy gardeners

In the past, people who wanted to turn food scraps into fertilizer had to store the waste in simple containers in their backyard and use their own forearm strength to stir it up every so often with a shovel. Most of the aeration is done for you by modern tumblers like the Envirocycle. You only have to turn the drum by hand a few times a week.

The device is kept outside and is completely sealed, so smells and animals can’t get in. The company makes a smaller version of its 35-gallon classic tumbler that can fit on a patio or balcony. It says that in a month, it will make compost that you can use in your pandemic victory garden.

For odor-averse urbanites

Once upon a time, environmentalists who wanted to keep their kitchens smelling nice had to put their food scraps in the freezer or bring them right away to a collection pile outside, even on cold January nights when it was inconvenient. Tabletop bins like Bamboozle’s are now made to fit charcoal filters under the lid that absorb smells and get rid of them. The Bamboozle’s handle is also a good way to move the trash to a nearby community garden or compost site if you don’t have the space or desire to make your own plant food.

For worm-curious people

Vermicomposting, or composting with the help of worms, can speed up the process, but neither red wigglers nor the plastic structures they usually live in for vermicomposting would be called “pretty.” But the Living Composter from Uncommon Goods gives hardworking worms a nicer place to live. Just drop peelings and sawdust soil mix into the countertop device’s opening, and the worms-in-residence will get to work turning 2 pounds of food a week into food for houseplant babies. You can order one from Uncle Jim’s for $28 at

Gearheads Who Can’t-Wait

It takes weeks for microorganisms to do their jobs. High-tech machines like the FoodCycler from Vitamix, on the other hand, only take hours. Even though it’s not technically a composter (the definition calls for “natural” decay), the microwave-sized device can turn a wider range of organic materials than usual into a “recycled food compound” in no more than the 8 hours you’ll be asleep in bed. You can add milk, leftover meat, and even bones. But beware: the Vitamix can only hold 2.5 liters and isn’t as good for the environment as methods that don’t need electricity to work.


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