Are you thinking about getting a Lomi electric composter and wondering how to use Lomi dirt? Read on for more about different ways to use Lomi dirt and why it may not be all that it’s cracked up to be.
This post contains affiliate links. I’ve included them in case this post helps you decide that one of these electric composters is right for you. But as you can see from my discussion below, I don’t really recommend either of the items for most people.
Maybe I should have titled this article 9 Ways Not To Use Your Lomi Dirt.
As a self-proclaimed composting nerd who owns a composting business and writes a lot about composting for others, I get so many questions about composting at home. By far one of the most common questions I receive relates to electric composters. When contemplating an investment in an expensive electric compost machine like the Lomi, so many people ask me about how to use Lomi dirt (i.e. the output from the Lomi machine).
I want to see composting become much easier for everyday people. I really hoped electric composters would be the magic tool to make this happen. Unfortunately, after using them for a couple of years, I just don’t think that’s the case. I’ll provide a more detailed review of the Lomi soon (and you can see my full review of the FoodCycler here). For now, let’s focus on ways to use the output – because if you can’t effectively use the output, it doesn’t seem worth the investment.
Are Electric Composters Worth The Investment?
I’ve thought long and hard about the effectiveness of electric composters. I try to provide a variety of advice and feedback about composting at home based on my own experience and what I’ve learned from others to help as many people as possible reduce their food waste and limit the organic materials they send to the landfill.
I own a Lomi and a FoodCycler, both of which I purchased with my own money independent of any collaboration with either of the companies that make them. I bought them both so I could honestly and completely answer inquiries about whether or not people should invest in these tools.
After using the FoodCycler for a couple of years and running many cycles with the Lomi, I’m not especially compelled to recommend either of them to many people. In most cases, I think there are several better alternatives for reducing the organic waste one sends to the landfill.
That being said, food waste is a massive problem. Our landfills are overflowing and food waste in our landfills creates methane, a potent greenhouse gas contributing to climate change. According to a report from the Environmental Protection Agency from November 2021, one-third of food produced in the United States is never eaten. Food waste is the single most common material in landfills and incinerators and represents 22-24% of municipal solid waste. We desperately need to reduce the food waste we put in our trash bins.
Solutions to reduce landfilled food waste will vary significantly based on people’s living circumstances, financial resources, abilities, and available time to manage food waste. I appreciate that. No solution will be right for everyone, and we need a variety of solutions to meet the needs of as many people as possible.
With that in mind, I’m willing to be convinced that an electric composter is right for a small group of people. But electric composters are definitely not the systematic solution to eliminating landfilled organic waste. They are not our golden ticket to food waste freedom.
What is Lomi Dirt?
Lomi Dirt is the output from a cycle of organic waste matter processed by the Lomi electric composter. The Lomi dehydrates and grinds up food waste and organic matter to turn it into a form of fertilizer for plants and gardens.
The company claims that their LomiPods, small tablets added to each cycle, help make the output more beneficial to the soil. Because the machine heats the bucket and its contents to high temperatures, I’m not quite sure how the process doesn’t effectively kill most or all of the effective bacteria and microorganisms that would otherwise feed the soil. (Read: I’m dubious about just how beneficial the output is. But I don’t have the data or scientific expertise to make a more definitive claim than just to say I’m skeptical.)
But let’s assume for today that the Lomi dirt is actually a nutrient-rich amendment that can ultimately build healthier soil ecosystems (even if it’s not).
What Lomi Dirt is not.
I can say with certainty that the output looks nothing like finished compost. It looks more like potpourri. When you use the LomiPods, the output is darker and slightly more dirt-like than without the pods. But you would never confuse it for dirt, soil, or finished compost (with or without the Pods).
Also, Lomi dirt often smells like the food that was processed. The odor is not nearly as potent after processing as before I run the machine. But it’s strong enough that I would not want to sprinkle it on top of soil or dirt without burying it.
The very first time I used the Lomi, we included cooked fish scraps in the bucket’s contents and the Lomi dirt definitely smelled like fish. I’m taking a hard pass on sprinkling this on the plants around my home.
Can You Really Use Lomi Dirt From The Lomi Electric Composter?
A more detailed review of the machine is worthwhile (and coming in due time). But for now, let’s focus on how one might use the output of a Lomi electric composter – because if you don’t use the output, it’s hardly worth the investment to buy it.
The official Lomi website offers eight ways to use Lomi dirt. Some of them are fine, though I don’t think they’re often the highest and best uses for our food scraps. A couple of the options, however, are downright silly.
What good is an electric composter if we simply toss the output in the trash? To make it worthwhile to purchase and manage any electric composter, it’s important we can effectively utilize the organic matter output. Let’s discuss a variety of ways some have proposed to use Lomi dirt and consider alternative options that, in my opinion, are often much better.
Toss the Lomi Dirt in Your Green Bin
In their YouTube videos and on their website, Lomi suggests disposing of Lomi dirt in a green bin (i.e. compost collection or drop-off service). I suppose this is technically an acceptable place to put dehydrated, ground-up organic waste remnants.
But if you’re throwing these contents in a green bin that someone else will process, then what’s the point of processing them in an electric composter in the first place? Why put them in a machine that consumes energy and also comes with its own carbon footprint from manufacturing and distribution, not to mention electronic waste disposal at end of life, when you can put the food scraps directly in the bin as is?
Having composted at home in a variety of ways, I think an electric composter is one of the least convenient options for composting. If you have access to any green bin through a pickup service, municipal service, farmers’ market, or other drop-off services, these are often better and easier choices. Let’s compare a couple of options.
Lomi vs. Compost Collection Service
Time | Composting through a collection service, either a private hauler or a municipal service, is way easier than managing an electric composter. For anyone who has access to a collection service and doesn’t particularly care about using finished compost, I always recommend this as the first and best option to compost. Even if you do want finished compost, what you buy from the processor will likely be of much higher quality than the output from an electric composter.
Cost | Due to the significant cost of these machines, including recurring costs like replacement filters and LomiPods, the cost of a collection service versus the machine is not wildly different. Let’s look at an example.
The Lomi machine costs $500 and the LomiPods and charcoal pellets cost about $120 per year ($40 to be replaced once every 3-4 months). That’s $620 after 1 year, $740 after 2 years, and $860 after three years. Residential composting collection services range from free (if you have access to a municipal program covered by tax dollars) to $25 per month for more expensive private hauler services. Let’s call it $20 per month for discussion purposes.
It would take 43 months (or more than 3 and a half years) of monthly collection service to recover the costs of the Lomi machine and its accessories (and that doesn’t account for the electricity to run it). That assumes it still works after three years!
If you have access, the collection service is easier and less expensive. If you have a green bin, just use it for food scraps and ditch the intermediate step of an electric composter.
Waste Reduction | Most collection services accept a wide variety of organic matter, including everything that can go in a Lomi. Electric composters, however, have low volume capacity and can’t compost things like stone fruit and avocado pits, bones, and other hard objects that might break the grinding mechanism. The collection service will likely be able to handle more of the items you want to compost.
Lomi vs. Compost Drop Off
Time | On its surface, a drop-off option may seem more time-intensive than using an electric composter. Maybe for a handful of people, that’s the case.
But to really eliminate food waste using an electric composter, there is still some intentional management required for the electric composter. Chopping up food scraps for the machine, running it, cleaning the bucket, and managing the output feel nearly as time-intensive to me as sticking food scraps in a bucket and dropping them off at a collection site periodically.
Cost | Drop-off sites are typically free or charge a minimal fee to collect food scraps, so it would take many years of drop-offs to account for the cost of the machine and its recurring parts replacements (that whopping $860 price tag after just three years).
Waste Reduction | Most drop-off sites accept a wide variety of organic matter, including everything that can go in a Lomi. Electric composters, however, have low volume capacity and can’t compost things like stone fruit and avocado pits, bones, and other hard objects that might break the grinding mechanism. The drop-off site will likely be able to handle more of the items you want to compost.
Accessibility | While not always the case, it’s fair to assume that most people who can afford a Lomi electric composter either have access to a collection service, a car to drop off scraps, or reasonable transportation to an acceptably close drop-off location. If not, keep scrolling for more alternatives to proposed Lomi dirt uses.
Toss The Lomi Dirt in Your Trash Bin
Face palm. What?!
If you’re going to throw the organic matter into the trash, why endure the cost, effort, and energy consumption of using an electric composter? Some might argue that it reduces the amount of space the waste consumes in your trash bin and ultimately in the landfill. I prescribed to this thought in the past, and it’s not false. Dehydrated and ground-up food scraps will take up less space in your trash and in the trash truck (that has its own carbon footprint) than if not dehydrated and ground up.
But that organic matter will still release methane in the landfill when it doesn’t have access to oxygen to break down via aerobic processes. I’m hard-pressed to believe that we’re collectively better off spending millions of dollars on electric composters simply to reduce the physical size of the food waste we’re sending to a landfill.
Furthermore, Lomi encourages including ripped-up cardboard and brown matter in the bucket. Hopefully, anyone throwing their Lomi dirt into the trash won’t be using it to process cardboard and other browns that could be recycled instead of being sent to a landfill.
If you’re buying the Lomi simply to toss your organic waste in the trash, save your money. Find another way to compost. Donate to, volunteer for, or advocate for organizations working to increase access to better systematic waste management programs for everyone (not just the wealthy who can afford Lomi or other electric composters). It just doesn’t seem worth it.
Add the Lomi Dirt To Your Compost Bin
If you have a compost bin, skip the Lomi and simply toss your food scraps into your compost bin or heap. Even if you live in a place with cold weather, you can often toss your food scraps into a compost pile over the winter, let them freeze, and compost them in the spring when they thaw out.
A lazily managed compost pile will take a long time to break down, so the volume can pile up (in any weather, but especially when it’s cold). I’ve heard some people who prefer to use an electric composter during winter, collect the Lomi dirt for several months, and then add it all to their compost bin in the spring.
I understand the appeal of this. Where I live, we experience cold winters and our compost pile does freeze for a period of time. But, for someone willing to manage a compost pile, I still think there are easier and more effective ways to compost through winter than relying on an electric composter.
I’ve also received many inquiries from people who live in bear country about whether or not an electric composter might be a good alternative. Due to food smells in a compost bin that attract bears, composting isn’t always a safe or effective option in these areas.
But I’m not sure the electric composter really solves the problem. The finished product still has some smell to it. After I sprinkled it in my garden, the smell had enough of a scent to attract raccoons to my garden in just one night. If the raccoons are interested in it, I bet the bears can smell it too.
Add Lomi Dirt To House Plant Soil
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just sprinkle your electric compost output on all your houseplants and watch them flourish? It sounds too good to be true because it is.
Extra Steps | First and foremost, you can’t just sprinkle Lomi dirt on top of your houseplants. Lomi dirt needs to be integrated with soil, so you can’t use Lomi dirt on your houseplants anytime you’d like. Only when you plant new plants or repot existing plants will you use some of your Lomi dirt.
Loads of Lomi | Moreover, Lomi recommends a ratio of 10:1 potting soil to Lomi dirt. If you’re using your Lomi regularly (at least 1-2 times per week for an individual or small family), you will most likely create way more Lomi dirt than you’ll ever use as a potting soil amendment.
Too Many Nutrients? | Further, potting soil is already rich in nutrients. I’m not sure mixing Lomi dirt with potting soil is actually good for the plants. A few months ago, a reader reached out to me to share how her FoodCycler Foodilizer created a growth of green matter in her bare potting soil when she mixed it into the soil before planting. After reaching out to FoodCycler to inquire about this, they said that adding Foodilizer (which is similar to Lomi dirt) to potting soil actually adds too many nutrients to the soil.
I’m not a garden expert, so maybe someone else understands better than me. But it almost sounds like a soil equivalent to an algae bloom in water that results from too many nutrients in the water? Over time, the odd growth eventually went away (presumably as the excess nutrients were used up). But why add organic matter to potting soil that is already mixed to be suitable for new plant growth?
Managing Inputs | Additionally, Lomi suggests limiting the inputs into the Lomi to fruits, vegetables, egg shells, and coffee grounds if you’re planning to use the Lomi dirt on houseplants. You typically can compost all sorts of other things in the Lomi (like meat, dairy, browns, and bioplastics). The variety of items you can compost is kind of one of their selling points.
But if you plan to use the output for houseplants, be sure not to include those other things. If you do, be sure to keep different containers of Lomi dirt to know which included meat, dairy, and bioplastics and which did not, I guess?
Lastly, be sure to use Grow Mode (which takes nearly 24 hours of continuous energy use to complete) along with your LomiPods, as this is the best way to make sure to get the most nutrient-rich output from the processing cycle. But don’t use Grow Mode (use Lomi-approved mode) when you’re processing bioplastics.
This management sounds tedious.
All this is to say that using Lomi dirt to feed your houseplants sounds nice in theory. But it’s really not very practical for most people, especially those hoping Lomi is a shortcut to easy composting. Even if you actively manage what goes into the Lomi, keep separate containers for “houseplant dirt” and “not houseplant dirt”, and some of the Lomi dirt feeds houseplants, most of it will still end up elsewhere (probably in the trash).
Sprinkle Lomi Dirt on Your Lawn
I suppose this isn’t the worst of the options (like trashing the Lomi dirt), but Lomi composter beware of this one. As I mentioned above, the Lomi dirt still has a feint food odor to it (and a mildly strong odor if you composted smelly food like fish). If you sprinkle Lomi dirt on your lawn, it may attract animals.
Last summer, I sprinkled FoodCycler Foodilizer (similar to Lomi dirt) on some empty raised garden beds covered in wood chips for the offseason. I mixed it into wood chips. By the very next morning, a ravenous animal had dug lots of holes in the garden bed in search of the food smell I couldn’t detect but the animal clearly recognized.
I suspect it was a nosy raccoon unsuccessfully looking for its lunch. Needless to say, that scent will not get “buried” in your grass. Lomi dirt (or any electric composter output) is not the same as the fertilizer you spread on your lawn. It takes much longer to break down than synthetic fertilizer to make the nutrients accessible to the microbes in the soil.
If you’re concerned about animals digging up your lawn in search of the source of the food smell (or generally being attracted to your yard), I’d tread carefully on using Lomi dirt as a lawn fertilizer.
Share Lomi Dirt With Neighbors
Lomi dirt is only good for your neighbors if they can actually use it (and don’t have better uses for the actual food scraps before they’re processed by an electric composter). See all the reasons above (i.e. the ways your neighbor might actually use the finished product) and consider that there are better alternatives.
That’s not to say sharing Lomi dirt with neighbors is bad; there are just so many better options to connect with neighbors over composting and help your gardener friends have healthy soil.
Drop Lomi Dirt At A Community or School Garden
As I’ve mentioned already, Lomi dirt is not finished compost. It’s not fertilizer (in the traditional sense). So before you drop your Lomi dirt at a community garden or school garden, consider what they actually need. A community garden may already have plenty of greens in its compost bin, like all the plant remnants from prior seasons. A school has more than enough food scraps from their lunch room, so they likely don’t need any more greens from you either.
Some school or community gardens may have a need for Lomi dirt, but it’s unlikely and this is certainly not a widespread solution for most Lomi users. If you’re thinking about buying a Lomi (or any electric composter) and plan to donate your Lomi dirt, find out first if they actually need it and fully understand what they are actually getting. Don’t make your trash someone else’s problem.
Also, if you’re willing to drop off your Lomi dirt, maybe you can find a drop-off location for your food scraps in your community instead (and save yourself the time and money of an electric composter).
Sell or Donate Your Lomi Dirt
Maybe. But I’m skeptical about a broad market for Lomi dirt. I just searched “Lomi Dirt” and “Lomi Fertilizer” on Facebook Marketplace and didn’t find a single listing that even looked remotely close to this.
Don’t look up listings on Facebook Marketplace for compost or mulch. These are not the same thing. I’m not saying it’s impossible to sell or donate Lomi dirt, but understand the market for Lomi dirt in your area before assuming you’ll be able to find a home for it.
Before buying a Lomi electric composter, ask yourself what you plan to do with the output. If you don’t have a good answer or I’ve debunked your potential solution above, reconsider if an electric composter is right for you. There’s probably a better solution available to you to reduce your landfilled food waste. When we really dig into the practical applications, I just don’t think an electric composter is right for most people.