Indoor composter turns kitchen scraps into fertilizer

© Provided by Ottawa Citizen Rubbermaid’s program addresses a gap left by recycling facilities that



a woman standing in front of a box: Rubbermaid’s program addresses a gap left by recycling facilities that don’t take food-grade material.


© Provided by Ottawa Citizen
Rubbermaid’s program addresses a gap left by recycling facilities that don’t take food-grade material.

I know, I know, I know: This is the third time in the last 18 months I’ve written about reducing or redirecting kitchen waste.

Humour me please, because as an enthusiast home cook I’m evangelical on the topic. Righteously so, I think, given that the 2.2 million tonnes of avoidable household food waste created annually by Canadians is equivalent to 2.1 million cars on the road, according to Love Food Hate Waste Canada , an awareness campaign delivered by the National Zero Waste Council.

Love Food Hate Waste Canada has great tips for reducing food waste. But even the most careful cooks will have scraps. The good news is that products, programs and processes that lessen kitchen waste are coming to market.



a person standing in front of a stove:  The FoodCycler reduces the volume of kitchen food waste by up to 90 per cent.


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The FoodCycler reduces the volume of kitchen food waste by up to 90 per cent.

I recently tested, for example, the FoodCycler FC-50 that Vitamix launched in July. It transforms kitchen waste into a nutrient-rich soil amendment (aka fertilizer) that can be used to enrich indoor or outdoor gardens, is free of pathogens, and can be stored pest-free for months.

Taking up about one cubic foot, the unit can live under a sink or on a countertop. The removable waste collection bucket has a snugly-fitting carbon-filter lid; I had no problems with odours from the basket or with pesky fruit flies.

The machine takes fruit cores, vegetable peels, dairy, chicken bones and more. The cycle is supposed to run between three and eight hours; it’s always been done in four or less with the loads I’ve made.

I first tried the FoodCycler ($500) in my home in the city. Feeding a family of four, with a diet that’s heavy on plant-based choices, I was filling it up every on average once a day.

While I found it useful and effective, I am also notoriously reluctant to give up counter or cupboard space. I’m also very happy with Toronto’s municipal green bin program, but I know that friends in condos and apartments don’t all have access to that service.

Indeed, one audience that’s given the unit rave reviews online is homeowners living in multi-residential urban settings where there may be no composting program, or where outdoor composting encourages varmints.

With that in mind, I took the FoodCycler with me for a three-week working stint at my cottage, where all waste has to go to a dump, and where there is no community composting program.

It’s a perfect fit. There’s less smell and fewer drippy messes inside — as food waste goes into the recycler rather than a garbage bag. There’s also less smell — and no pests so far — in the garbage container that stays out in a bunkie between dump runs, which I’ve also cut down on. I expect I will doubly appreciate fewer trips to the bunkie — and the dump — during cold and icy weather.

The geraniums and herbs I grow in pots all got a dose of the soil enhancer, and did so well on it that I’m considering starting an indoor herb and micro-green garden this winter.



 Each cycle consumes about the same electricity as a desktop computer running for the same amount of time.


© Supplied
Each cycle consumes about the same electricity as a desktop computer running for the same amount of time.

Many online reviews say the process is odourless; but once or twice, my mix has exuded a slight, vaguely vegetal odour. It’s completely inoffensive to me, but if I didn’t like it, I’d simply turn the machine on at night when I am out of the kitchen. There is absolutely no odour from the finished material.

In another home-related category, Rubbermaid www.rubbermaid.com has partnered with international recycling company TerraCycle www.terracycle.com to make their glass and plastic food storage containers recyclable in the United States and Canada.

Rubbermaid product is famously durable, but when its natural life does come to an end, it’s good to know it can be re-used. Once collected, containers are cleaned and melted into hard plastic or glass that can be recycled into park benches, bins, and other consumer products.

The program is open to individuals, schools, offices, and community organizations. For more on initiatives from both companies, go to www.aroundthehouse.ca

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