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An Unpaid Review of the Vitamix FoodCycler FC-50

Wondering if the Vitamix FoodCycler FC-50 electronic composter is right for you? Read on for an unpaid review of the FoodCycler from a self-proclaimed composting nerd. I’ve tested a bunch of different composting methods and love to chat about all things composting at home. Hopefully, I can help you figure out if the FoodCycler is right for you.

Just want the quick answer to know if I think the FoodCycler is a good fit for you? Scroll straight to the bottom of the post for my quick summary!

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Can you compost in an apartment or a condominium? How can you compost without any outdoor space? 

As someone who writes and talks about composting a lot, I get some iteration of this question regularly. A quick Google search confirms there are tons of ways to compost indoors… in theory. But many ways to compost indoors are more complicated than a brief internet search implies. Today, let’s lay out the facts to assess if the Vitamix FoodCycler FC-50 is your solution to indoor composting.

What Is The Vitamix FoodCycler FC-50?

The Vitamix FoodCycler FC-50 is an electronic composting appliance. It’s about the size of a toaster oven (12.6 x 11 x 14.2 inches according to the Vitamix website where it is sold) and plugs into the wall. After filling the removable waste bucket with food scraps, the FoodCycler heats, dries, and grinds food scraps into a soil amendment that resembles a mixture of bread crumbs and dried spices, depending on what you process.

How Does the FoodCycler Work?

The FoodCycler has a removable food scrap bucket inside of the appliance. After collecting food scraps in the bucket for a couple of days, place the bucket inside the FoodCycler appliance and turn it on.

The FoodCycler moves through three phases to heat, dry, and grind the food waste into a crumb-like consistency called Foodilizer. Due to the high levels of heat, the Foodilizer has no microbial or bacterial qualities like typical compost, which is why it’s not ready for direct soil amendment for existing plants.

Is the FoodCycler Loud?

Nope! I can hear a low humming when it’s running, but it’s not an overwhelming noise by any means.

How Do You Store The FoodCycler?

To each their own, but we keep our FoodCycler on a shelf in the room next to our kitchen. It’s large enough that I did not want it taking up counter space. But I also don’t want to lug it in and out of cabinets or up from our basement every few days.

The food scrap bucket with carbon lid is much smaller, and we keep that on our countertop for daily food scrap collection.

Unless you have a lot of empty counter space, you’re probably not going to want the FoodCycler appliance residing on your counter. Keep this in mind when thinking about how and how often you plan to use it.

How Often Do You Run The FoodCycler?

We have a traditional compost bin for food scraps that can go in our outdoor piles and tumblers, so we don’t run the FoodCycler all that often. We only use the FoodCycler for food waste like meat, bread, and dairy products that I don’t like to put outdoors.

We probably use it once every seven to ten days, because the food scraps start to smell after that time. However, when I was getting to know the FoodCycler, I used it exclusively, and we ran it once every day or two for a family of four.

Is It Better To Landfill Food Scraps Or Use Energy To Run It?

As soon as I plugged the Vitamix FoodCycler FC-50 into the wall and realized it ran for several hours, I began wondering if my energy use was really any better than tossing the food scraps in the trash. Ultimately, I suppose it depends to some extent on the energy source in my home. Methane emissions from food decomposing in a landfill are definitely worse than solar power for my FoodCycler but maybe not such a good trade-off if the power to run the machine comes from fossil fuels.

Further, I haven’t seen a thorough energy use comparison between the amount of energy required to run the FoodCycler relative to the methane emissions reduced as a result of food scraps not being transported to a landfill or releasing methane during the decomposition process. I suspect the FoodCycler is a better alternative, without any scientific data to back up my early estimation. (I plan to do some more research on this and update the post accordingly.)

As with many environmental problems, we don’t reach a perfect solution in one giant leap. We take baby steps through various states of progress that continually improve on previous alternatives. Even if the FoodCycler isn’t the epitome of regenerative living and food waste elimination, it energizes momentum toward normalizing composting and provides an option for a certain audience.

In due time, we can only hope that a majority (or even all) of our energy sources are renewable, and appliances like the FoodCycler can capitalize on that paradigm shift.

How Can You Use the FoodCycler Output Or Foodilizer?

The crumb-like output from the FoodCycler is Foodilizer. As I mentioned above, the Foodilizer has no microbial or bacterial qualities like typical compost. You can add the Foodilizer to the soil but need to let it rest for 1-4 weeks before planting in that soil. The Foodilizer tablets speed up this process but still don’t make the output “soil-ready” right away.

If you don’t need the Foodilizer, I’m sure there are neighbors, community gardens, or friends in a local Buy Nothing group that would be happy to take it off your hands!

The Foodilizer can sit for up to a year before spoiling, so you can also collect it over time in a large container and use it to amend the soil in your garden in the spring and fall before planting and after harvesting, respectively. Just be sure you keep it dry while not using it. This is a great alternative to traditional compost if you have the space to store the Foodilizer and the soil in which to use it.

Is The FoodCycler A Complete Composting Solution For Apartment Dwellers?

It depends. As I already discussed, you can’t use the finished Foodilizer unless you have soil in which to let it rest and “come back to life”, even if you add the Foodilizer tablets to speed up bacterial and microbial regrowth.  Thus, if you’re hoping to make fertilizer for indoor houseplants and container gardens, the FoodCycler gets you there but requires the extra processing steps in empty soil.

If you just want to reduce waste and don’t need soil amendment, you can definitely give the Foodilizer away to friends, neighbors, a community garden, or offer it up in a local Buy Nothing group to someone who can use it.

How Does The FoodCycler Help If I Already Compost Outdoors?

We have several compost systems outdoors (because I’m a composting nerd and like to experiment with them), and the FoodCycler offers some composting benefits that I can’t achieve in my outdoor piles and tumblers.

Because food scraps are heated and dried, the FoodCycler can compost meat, dairy, bread, and even certain types of small bones. Additionally, the FoodCycler can help reduce the risk of attracting wildlife to your compost pile because the food scraps won’t smell during the final microbe reactivation process that happens in the soil (before the Foodilizer becomes traditional compost).

The FoodCycler also significantly speeds up the time between waste production and soil amendment if you’re not actively managing a very hot compost pile. After 3-8 hours in the FoodCycler, the Foodilizer can be added to the soil and ready for plants in just a few weeks. If you prefer not to labor over outdoor compost piles but still want to feed your garden with your food scraps, the FoodCycler definitely makes that possible.

How Much Does the FoodCycler Cost?

As of the time I wrote this article, the Vitamix® FoodCycler® FC-50 model available in the United States and Canada costs $399.95 in the United States and $499.95 in Canada. This price includes the removable waste bucket and carbon filter lid as well as two carbon filters for the machine.

You’ll need to replace the carbon filters in the machine about every 500 Cycler Hours. This is once every 3-4 months if you use the Cycler every few days. A set of two FoodCycler Replacement Filters costs $24.95, so expect to purchase those once or twice a year.

FoodCycler Foodilizer Tablets, which costs $24.95 for a a pack of two, are optional and will likely last about a year if used as instructed.

All in, in the United States, the upfront cost is about $400 with annual costs about roughly $40 – $50 a year. This is a pretty steep price that is out of reach for many people. I recognize this is not intended to be a solution for everyone, and it has some great benefits. But I definitely think it’s a small piece of the solution to our food waste dilemma.

How Does This Compare To A Compost Pick Up Service?

A compost pick-up service is a logical alternative for many people considering an investment in a FoodCycler. While not offered to everyone, there are composting (or food scrap collection) services in many major cities around the country. A lucky few have municipal compost services, but that’s not currently available for most of us.

The price of a food scrap collection service varies depending on where you live. I’ve seen rates as low as $10/month for weekly service up to $20/month for bi-weekly service. Price often depends on the density of customers in your area.

At the prices above, one could pay for several years of compost service fees before recovering the investment in a FoodCycler. As the owner of a composting service and a FoodCycler, I assure that you that setting your scraps out for the service pick up is far less work than managing your FoodCycler and the subsequent maintenance for the Foodilizer to be effective soil amendment.

Many of these services also provide finished compost to customers once or twice a year included in their subscription fee. The finished compost from the service provider will often be ready to add directly to the soil of houseplants and container gardens.

Compost pickup services vary with respect to the types of food scraps they take for collection. This is based on what methods of composting they use. Many will not take meat, dairy, and oils, so the FoodCycler could offer a broader range of food scraps to be composted.

Who Should Buy The FoodCycler?

Home Gardeners Without A Compost Pile | If you have a home garden, want to recycle your food scraps and put the nutrients back in the soil, don’t want to manage a typical compost pile, and have space to store Foodilizer until you’re ready to amend bare soil, then you will love the FoodCycler!

Apartment Dwellers With Access To A Garden | If you live in a small space and have access to a garden, you can definitely use the Foodilizer in your garden like a Home Gardener. You will reduce your food waste and replace nutrients in the soil.

Apartment Dwellers Who Don’t Need The Foodilizer | If you want to compost in a small space and don’t need the Foodilizer, you will love having the FoodCycler to compost in a way that’s really easy, clean, and doesn’t smell. You can give away the Foodilizer to a neighbor, friend, or through a local Buy Nothing group!

So What’s The Verdict On the FoodCycler?

The FoodCycler is a really neat appliance. It’s novel and offers some great benefits. It accompanies outdoor composting quite well and is one of the best options for those with no space for an outdoor pile and no composting service in their area.

But the FoodCycler is expensive. It’s not the seemingly magic, comprehensive solution it seems to be at first blush. The FoodCycler is not a complete solution for an apartment dweller or someone with no outdoor space unless they plan to give away the Foodilizer. There are lots of people who will benefit greatly from and love the Foodilizer, but it’s important to understand how it works and how you can use the output before investing.

Food waste is an immense global issue and will require massive culture change and a variety of solutions to effectively address. The FoodCycler is one important piece of the giant puzzle that we can use to find a way for everyone to get their food scraps out of the landfills and into the soil where they belong.

Any Other Questions?

Did I miss anything? Do you have any other questions? If so, leave them in the comments, and I’ll do my best to answer them!

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