Every year, Canadians throw away nearly 2.2 million tonnes of food. Not only is this incredibly wasteful, but it’s also awful for the environment. When buried in a landfill, food waste generates methane, a potent greenhouse gas. In fact, landfills are responsible for nearly one-quarter of Canada’s methane emissions.
“Methane contributes to global warming, and its concentration is increasing in the atmosphere,” explains Mario Tenuta, a professor of applied soil ecology at the University of Manitoba. “One of the ways to decrease the environmental impact of landfills is to divert materials from going to them. That’s where composting comes in.”
When composted, food breaks down to produce nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, and returns carbon to the soil instead of releasing it into the atmosphere. Many Canadian cities operate a green bin program for food waste, but if yours doesn’t have one, consider the countertop composter. There are a variety of models on the market; most yield either true compost, or a dehydrated byproduct that can be used as fertilizer. Chatelaine staffers put five options to the test in our kitchens; here’s how they stacked up.
After being primed by a four-week carb and protein diet, Reencle’s patented microbes break down select types of food waste into compost in three to five hours.
Pros: Odourless; quiet motor; processes food quickly; no need to re-place microbes if instructions are followed well; creates actual compost as opposed to dehydrated food waste.
Cons: Expensive; bulky; can’t process many common waste types (such as eggshells, onion skins and root vegetables).
Kitchen-to-Garden Fertilizer Composter, $672, reencleus.com (currently sold out, available for preorder)
Lomi grinds and dehydrates many types of food waste—as well as yard waste, compostable paper and Lomi-approved bioplastics—into compost that can be used indoors or out. A cycle can take from three to 20 hours (the latter results in mature compost); a LomiPod tablet, which contains microbes, is recommended for most cycles to facilitate decomposition.
Pros: Sleek design; odourless; accepts a wide variety of waste; creates actual compost.
Cons: Expensive; need to repurchase LomiPods and replace activated charcoal at regular intervals; our tester found the motor somewhat loud.
Lomi, $674, pela.earth/lomi
This “food recycler” grinds and dehydrates many types of food waste—including dairy and small bones—within eight hours. The end product can be used as a plant fertilizer indoors or out (though the brand doesn’t recommend it if you’re processing meat waste).
Pros: Odourless; quiet motor; processes food quickly; no additives required to process waste.
Cons: Expensive; bulky; need to replace activated charcoal in filter at regular intervals.
FoodCycler FC-50, $500, vitamix.com
The brainchild of two Laval University students turned entrepreneurs, Tero grinds and dehydrates many types of food waste into fertilizer that can be used indoors or out. A cycle takes from four to eight hours.
Pros: Sleek design; odourless; very easy to operate; no additives required to process waste; Canadian; female-founded.
Cons: Expensive; need to replace activated charcoal in filter at regular intervals; doesn’t accept paper products.
Tero, $695, teroinnovation.ca
This unit ferments food waste with layers of microbe-laden bran, a Japanese process of composting known as bokashi. After three weeks, it yields a “pre-compost” that can be buried or added to an outdoor composter, as well as a liquid that can be used as fertilizer.
Pros: Less expensive; odourless; no electricity required; accepts a wide variety of food waste; made from recycled plastic; Canadian.
Cons: Cannot be opened during fermentation process; waste needs to be chopped well; need to re-purchase bran and paper filters at regular intervals; the pre-compost can’t be used directly on plants.
Urbalive Bokashi Kitchen Composter, $180, wormbox.ca
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