Wondering if you should buy a Lomi kitchen composter, a Vitamix FoodCycler electric composter or any other kitchen composting appliance to compost your food scraps at home? Read on for more information about these supposedly sustainable kitchen appliances and if an electric composter might make sense for you.
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Let’s jump to the chase. Should you buy an electric kitchen composter? Probably not. I’m sure there are a handful of people who will find it particularly useful and worth their investment. But for the majority of people, an electric kitchen composter is a waste of money, more greenwashed than green, and is not the best way to compost at home.
How I tested kitchen composters
Once upon a time, I bought a FoodCycler FC-50. A few months later I bought a Lomi machine through crowdfunding that arrived at my house approximately 13,728 days later (maybe not that many, but it felt like it). I kept both of these electric composters for more than a year, And after testing them for several months to judge their usefulness and environmental benefits, I literally never used them.
Even though I had both of these kitchen composters, I would never recommend someone buy both of them. While they might each claim to have some unique qualities, they’re basically the same thing. Please don’t believe the hype that one should replace the other. I bought them both specifically so I could try them out, use each of them, and compare them in an informed manner for the blog.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve gotten SO many questions about whether or not it’s worth it to buy a Lomi or a FoodCycler (or the latest version of the trending electric composting solution), which one is better, and how they work. More recently, I’ve received questions about a Mill membership as well. In all cases, tech investors seem to hope to capitalize on growing sustainable living trends and continue to iterate on a product (the kitchen composter) that’s just not a good food waste solution for the masses.
More reasons not to buy an electric composter
I had grand plans to write a comprehensive review of the Lomi. I already wrote a review of the Vitamix FoodCycler. I’ve also taken a dive into the carbon emissions from running the machine to consider one reason why an electronic compost machine may or may not be worth it. I ended up not writing a full review of the Lomi and wrote this post instead. I truly don’t believe kitchen composters make sense for most people, and I don’t want people spending hundreds of dollars on a greenwashed product they won’t really use.
Furthermore, I’ve shared all the ways you can (or cannot) use Lomi dirt or FoodCycler Foodilizer. Take a peek at the post and you’ll quickly see I’m not a huge fan.
If you’re contemplating an investment in an electric kitchen composter, there are several things to consider before spending money on this supposedly eco-friendly kitchen appliance. Let’s break it down (see what I did there). 😉 We will start with two common questions and dive into more detail about reasons not to buy a kitchen composter below.
Does a kitchen composter work?
It depends on how you define “work”. The Lomi and FoodCycler both functioned well for the most part, in a very literal sense. They dehydrated and ground up food waste into… dehydrated food grinds (big surprise). So they technically work.
But do they compost? No. Electric composters don’t actually compost food waste. More on this below about using the output from kitchen composters.
Is an electric kitchen composter worth it?
Quick answer: probably not.
I think nearly all people will be best off saving their money and not making this large financial expenditure that is also pretty large itself. (It takes up a seriously solid amount of counter space, especially for something designed with apartment dwellers in mind.)
6 Reasons Not To Buy an Electric Composter
I’m sure there will be a handful of people for whom an electric composter makes sense. I’d be silly to suggest I know with certainty that no one should buy it. But I do think the ideal audience is pretty small. Before you spend your money, consider these 5 reasons not to buy an electric composter.
1. It’s Hard To Use the Output from Kitchen Composters
On the surface, the story of electric composting sounds quite appealing. We imagine sprinkling the “finished compost” on houseplants and vegetable gardens. Doesn’t it sound romantic?
But this isn’t how it actually works. The output from electric composters like the Lomi and the Vitamix FoodCycler isn’t actually finished compost. For the most part, it is dried-out, ground-up food scraps.
Vitamix FoodCycler Foodilizer
The FoodCycler is pretty forthcoming about the finished product. The company discloses that the output, called Foodilizer, needs to rest in bare soil for several weeks before adding around plants to be effective. Essentially, the microbes in the soil need to “compost” (i.e. process and digest) the dried-out, ground-up food scraps before they become soil nutrients, much like the process of regular composting.
The Lomi kitchen composter claims to create a finished compost equivalent when you use their LomiPods (at least this is how I interpret their messaging). I made several batches of finished products from the Lomi with and without the LomiPods. The LomiPods make something more similar-ish to finished compost, but it’s a far cry from the nutrient-rich soil amendment that’s the output of well-managed composting.
Mill Food Grinds
The Mill (and its corresponding membership), one of the newest additions to the greenwashed kitchen composter market I’ve seen, does not even call the product a composter. They call it a “kitchen bin” though it’s marketed as a food waste solution to serve the same effective purpose as other kitchen composters.
I credit them with the transparency of language; none of these machines are actually composting anything. And they’ve recognized that the output is useless enough to customers that they chose to set up their offering as a service to ship the food grinds to chicken farms. Let me reiterate – the product/service is built around the assumption that customers don’t actually use the output from the machine. I’m not the only one who thinks using the output is generally unrealistic.
Further, the fact that they think shipping our household food waste through the mail to chicken farmers around the country is the “optimal environmental solution” for this output should be a good indication that it’s really hard for most everyday people to use it in any meaningful way.
Electric Composter Output Needs Time To Cure
No matter which of these electric composters you use, outputs need some time to cure in bare soil. Lomi might dispute this but I don’t believe them. Just look at the finished products.
Electric Composter Output is Not Compost or Soil Amendment
Do you really intend to sprinkle any of those on your everyday houseplants? Surely these outputs have some nutrients in them that eventually could benefit the soil, but it’s not a simple one-step process to actually use the output from electric composters.
Furthermore, these all still smell like food. A scratch-and-sniff screen would be great right now, but alas, our internet technology isn’t quite that advanced yet. And if you’re “composting” something stinky (like tuna fish leftovers) in these bins, which I’ve done, there is still a very distinct smell to the scraps.
My tuna fish Lomi grounds smelled like fish (shocking, I know…). Believe me when I tell you that these each have a slight odor, at best, that I don’t think would bode well sitting on top of indoor houseplant soil. (More on the smells below and how they attracted raccoons to my garden.)
Most People Can’t Use the Output from the Kitchen Composters
Even if people can use it on houseplants or gardens (if they have a space for it to cure), how much do they really need? At some point, haven’t they “fertilized” everything enough for a while? Those who have large gardens could likely use all the output. But if you have a large garden, there are far better ways to compost than using a low-volume processing machine in your home.
I’ve seen some urban gardeners tout the benefits, and maybe one could make a case for some urban gardeners using this machine because they can’t process all their compost in their limited space. But you’d need many raised beds (I’d guess at least a half dozen or more) to use up a year’s worth of food grinds replenishing your bare soil each season between crops.
I’ve asked several people who have these machines how they use the output. Very few people have great answers. There are far more stories that end with “well… sometimes I compost it but sometimes, I guess I just throw it in the trash… because I’m not really sure what to do with it.”
I shared an entire post on all the ways to use Lomi “compost” (which also applies to FoodCycler Foodilizer) and then explained why I think most of them are silly or pointless. Definitely check out that full post to figure out how you’d actually use the electric composter finished product – regularly and sustainably – before buying a Lomi, a FoodCycler, or any other electric composter.
I think most people won’t actually do anything with the finished product except toss it in a green bin, a compost pile, or a trash bin most of the time. This is precisely where the food scraps would likely end up anyway without being processed by the electric composter.
And if that’s the case, what’s the point of buying the thing, letting the thing take up space in your home, using energy to run the thing, and eventually disposing of the thing when it doesn’t actually have a large impact on where food waste ends up?
This is my biggest criticism of electric composters. When we don’t actually put the end product to good use or the machine doesn’t materially change the waste stream, it’s not worth the money or the resources used to make and run the machine.
Beyond this, most people don’t really need any more reasons not to buy the Lomi, the FoodCycler, or any other electric composter. But for those who may actually use the finished product in a useful way that they don’t have access to without the machine, here are some other reasons to consider that might further give you pause before investing in these supposedly eco-friendly appliances.
2. Electric Composters are Expensive
The Lomi, the FoodCycler, and the Mill membership are all pretty expensive. At the time of this post, the Lomi cost $500 while the FoodCycler costs $400. That price is not accessible for most people. I know Lomi and FoodCycler are not necessities and will have certain audiences who can afford the machines. But even if you can afford one of them, I think there are other options that are better.
The Mill membership is arguably more expensive because you pay for it forever (or as long as you subscribe). At $33/month (the price at the time of this post), it will take many months to equal the upfront cost of a Lomi or FoodCycler. But it’s more expensive in the long run if it was a viable sustainable solution. Spoiler Alert: I don’t think it is.
… and there are much better options for those who can afford it
I went into greater detail in my review of the FoodCycler FC-50. But in short, a curbside compost pickup service is available in many urban and suburban areas. A service is much easier to use, more effective, and will take years to equal the cost of either machine.
If you have a neighbor who composts, ask to drop your scraps in their bin. They’ll probably say yes. And if you have a bit of space, I’d choose a Subpod or traditional compost bin like the SoilSaver over an electric composter in most instances.
Related Reading: Top 5 Easiest Ways To Compost At Home
3. Electric Composters Take Up a Lot of Space
Both the FoodCycler and the Lomi take up a substantial amount of counter space. I didn’t keep either in our kitchen for this reason. Electric composters can theoretically be for anyone, but they seem to be marketed to and designed particularly for people who don’t have outdoor space to compost themselves.
Given the footprint of kitchen composters, I definitely don’t think they’re a great option for people living in apartments or other small spaces. We’ve lived in apartments in Philadelphia and Chicago. In both cases, I would not have had space for an electric composter in my home.
4. Electric Composters are Kind of Noisy
The Lomi and FoodCycler both run for several hours; usually between 4 and 8 hours per cycle depending on the mode that you use. Both have a noticeable humming motor sound that’s pretty annoying, especially if you live in a small space or have to stay near the machine while it’s running. Some of the Lomi modes are especially loud.
The Lomi site has compared the “quiet sound” of the machine to the humming of your fridge or your dishwasher. At least in my experience, this is just flat-out false. When it’s running, it’s much louder than any fridge I’ve ever owned. They ever refer to “Some cracking and grinding noises are totally normal for Lomi. Lomi may even squeak if you’ve added coffee grounds or eggshells.” I’ve heard those noises, and they are not quieter than my fridge or dishwasher.
When I run it, I make sure it’s in a room that we aren’t using. If you’re a light sleeper, you also may not want to run it overnight if it’s in a room near where you sleep. When I used to run it at night, my husband would mention how it bothered him when he tried to fall asleep, even though it was in the next room over.
I haven’t used other kitchen composters, so I can’t say from personal experience how loud they are. But in all cases, they have to run a small motor to dehydrate and grind up the food scraps. They probably make similar amounts of noise.
5. Kitchen Compost Food Grinds Still Smell Enough To Attract Animals
Some people have asked me if an electric composter might help people compost in bear country. I don’t live in bear country, but I know that these food grinds still have a faint food odor and bears have a keen sense of smell.
Depending on what you process, the smell may be pretty strong. I composted some leftover fish scraps in the Lomi, and it smelled very much like fish after going through the machine. I would bet bears would still smell these scraps and expect food (unless you thoroughly buried them).
At one point, I sprinkled Foodilizer under mulch in my garden. The very next morning, I found a mess of mulch that had certainly been the victim of a voracious raccoon following its nose. Raccoons were common visitors to my compost bin until I locked them, so I wasn’t surprised by the mess. But if raccoons smell the scent and assume it’s good, I suspect bears will do the same. In short, electric composter processing probably doesn’t ease the complexity of composting in bear country.
And even if you don’t live in bear country, you’ve probably got sly raccoons who will be plenty curious if you don’t adequately bury the dried and ground food scraps.
6. They’re more tedious to manage than you’d expect
Someone is going to tell me they have an electric composter and it’s not hard to manage. But I beg to differ, and here’s why:
- As you’re filling up the bucket, you need to be aware of the contents you’re inputting. Did you chop up big pieces so they don’t get caught in the grinder? Do you have too much sugar or fibrous material? If you’re using a Lomi, which mode do you plan to run? Are you including bioplastics? Do you have Lomi Pods on hand? Are you running Grow Mode, so the bioplastics should go into the trash for this cycle or be stored for later?
- Every day or two (especially if your home has more than one or two people), you need to run it. Are you running it when the noise won’t be an issue? What will you do with the scraps you create while it’s running?
- Once it’s done processing, where will you store the scraps?
- And maybe I’m being a baby, but cleaning it is kind of a pain, especially when food grinds get stuck in the grinder (which happens pretty regularly).
None of these steps are that hard, but they’re also not as easy as other methods of composting I’ve used. If they will work for you, that’s great. But it’s just worth noting that it’s not the easy peasy magic solution some of the electric composting marketing implies (at least to me).
The Final Verdict: Is an electric kitchen composter worth it?
I don’t think so. I just can’t recommend that someone buy an electric composter. I’m a composting nerd. I’ve tried composting in a SoilSaver compost bin (my very favorite outdoor compost bin), an open compost bin, a compost tumbler, and a chicken wire enclosure. I own a Subpod. I even started and sold my own curbside composting service.
Having tried all of these composting methods, the electric composter is my absolute least favorite. It might be an unpopular opinion, but electric composters aren’t the future of food waste.
Deinfluencing doesn’t pay
One last thing to note about electric composters and who you see promoting them – Most of the electric composter companies (definitely Lomi and FoodCycler) have pretty solid affiliate programs and establish paid partnerships with content creators and media companies to promote their products.
That means that when you buy one of those expensive products through one of the links they share on their website or social media, they make a decent commission. Influencers (including me) – and media companies! – have financial incentives to encourage you to purchase these machines because they get paid when you do.
Deinfluencing, on the other hand, isn’t that lucrative. I don’t see handsome paychecks for buying these machines with my own money (they were not gifted to me), using them for months, and then spending hours writing up reviews telling you NOT to buy them. But as I used these machines more and saw others contemplating them as well, it became abundantly clear to me that they just aren’t great investments for most people. And I can’t, in good faith, tell you otherwise.
All that is to say that some of the other people telling you they love the machines may be telling the truth. They might truly love electric composters, and they might have good uses for the output. But when you dive into most of the articles (at least the ones I’ve read so far), most of them don’t really dig that deep – they don’t offer many critiques beyond a surface-level approval of a shiny new product.
- Most don’t tell you how they actually manage the process (presumably because it’s more tedious than the companies want you to believe). It’s not that hard, but it’s more annoying than many of the reviews let on.
- Most don’t tell you what they actually do with the output (and dear friend, they are not simply sprinkling it all on their houseplants – if they tell you that, they are lying).
- Most don’t compare to other composting alternatives available to them with respect to cost, convenience, and environmental costs and benefits.
- Most don’t show you how they have to store the output somewhere for months before they can put it in their garden each spring or fall – and this takes up a good bit of space, especially for apartment dwellers (if they have a garden).
So before you invest hundreds of dollars into a kitchen compost machine, do your research. Think about whether you’ll really make the most use of it and if it’s the best option available for you. Consider the incentives of the people recommending it to you, and how deep their glowing reviews or constructive criticism are. I’m not saying they’re wrong or dishonest or that an electric composter isn’t right for you. I’m just suggesting you be particularly critical before investing.
Do you have an electric kitchen composter? Do you use it regularly? I’d love to know how you like it and how you use the output. Was it a worthwhile investment? Let me know in the comments.
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About The Author
Jen Panaro, founder and editor-in-chief of Honestly Modern, is a self-proclaimed composting nerd and an advocate for sustainable living for modern families. In her spare time, she’s a serial library book borrower, a messy gardener, and a mom of two boys who spends a lot of time in hockey rinks and on baseball fields.
You can find more of her work at Raising Global Kidizens, an online space to help parents and caregivers raise the next generation of responsible global citizens.