04. 24. 2009
Green Tech: New, improved composting in your kitchen
Compost is, I speak from experience, just as good for your soil and your plants as everybody says. Friendly microbes do nearly all of the work of breaking waste plant material and kitchen scraps down for recycling into growing new plants. But bringing microbes and material together into blissful union can be a bit of a hassle for the human composter. I speak from experience here, too.
Doing it outside takes some labor: turning it over and keeping it moist so the microbes can do their work. It also takes time, usually a year or more. And space. A compost pile is not a thing of beauty, so you'll want to stick it somewhere unobtrusive. That usually means outdoor space larger than a small yard. And it generally rules out yard-free dwellings altogether, even though compost would do your houseplants and windowboxes a world of good.
Enter kitchen composting. In its rawest form, that means dumping eggshells, coffee grounds, plant-based table scraps (no meat or bones!), along with those mystery bowls of fuzzy vegetable matter at the back of the refrigerator, into a pail. Then cover it and wait. And wait. Etc. If you drive away the oxygen-hating microbes by turning the compost-in-waiting over frequently, it shouldn't be terribly smelly. But that's an unpleasant task, and the remaining aroma may still make you reluctant to throw many dinner parties.
Which makes the NatureMill composter pretty interesting. It encloses an upper mixing chamber that aerates compostable material and keeps it warm enough for hot composting to kill weed seeds and other things you don't want. When small enough, the compost pieces drop into a lower chamber where they can be removed on a tray, ready for your gardening delight. The process includes filters to control the odors and is said to take only two weeks. You can put the composter into a standard kitchen cabinet or store it in the garage, garage, laundry room, or even outdoors.
Wired ran the NatureMill composter for a bit and liked it pretty well, except for the occasional scraping down required. It estimated that the machine uses about 50 cents worth of electricity monthly. The worst news is the price, which begins at $299 and goes to $399 for the "Pro" model. Plus, of course, a number of add-ons. Available online and at several retailers.