Indoor composter turns kitchen scraps into fertilizer

a woman standing in front of a box: Rubbermaid’s program addresses a gap left by recycling facilities that don’t take food-grade material.

© Provided by Ottawa Citizen
Rubbermaid’s program addresses a gap left by recycling facilities that don’t take food-grade material.

I know, I know, I know: This is the third time in the last 18 months I’ve written about reducing or redirecting kitchen waste.

Humour me please, because as an enthusiast home cook I’m evangelical on the topic. Righteously so, I think, given that the 2.2 million tonnes of avoidable household food waste created annually by Canadians is equivalent to 2.1 million cars on the road, according to Love Food Hate Waste Canada , an awareness campaign delivered by the National Zero Waste Council.

Love Food Hate Waste Canada has great tips for reducing food waste. But even the most careful cooks will have scraps. The good news is that products, programs and processes that lessen kitchen waste are coming to market.

a person standing in front of a stove:  The FoodCycler reduces the volume of kitchen food waste by up to 90 per cent.

© Supplied
The FoodCycler reduces the volume of kitchen food waste by up to 90 per cent.

I recently tested, for example, the FoodCycler FC-50 that Vitamix launched in July. It transforms kitchen waste into a nutrient-rich soil amendment (aka fertilizer) that can be used to enrich indoor or outdoor gardens, is free of pathogens, and can be stored pest-free for months.

Taking up about one cubic foot, the unit can live under a sink or on a countertop. The removable waste collection bucket has a snugly-fitting carbon-filter lid; I had no problems with odours from the basket or with pesky fruit flies.

The machine takes fruit cores, vegetable peels, dairy, chicken bones and more. The cycle is supposed to run between three and eight hours; it’s always been done in four or less with the loads I’ve made.

I first tried the FoodCycler ($500) in my home in the city. Feeding a family of four, with a diet that’s heavy on plant-based choices, I was filling it up every on average once a day.

While I found it useful and effective, I am also notoriously reluctant to give up counter or cupboard space. I’m also very happy with Toronto’s municipal green bin program, but I know that friends in condos and apartments don’t all have access to that service.

Indeed, one audience that’s given the unit rave reviews online is homeowners living in multi-residential urban settings where there may be no composting program, or where outdoor composting encourages varmints.

With that in mind, I took the FoodCycler with me for a three-week working stint at my cottage, where all waste has to go to a dump, and where there is no community composting program.

It’s a perfect fit. There’s less smell and fewer drippy messes inside — as food waste goes into the recycler rather than a garbage bag. There’s also less smell — and no pests so far — in the garbage container that stays out in a bunkie between dump runs, which I’ve also cut down on. I expect I will doubly appreciate fewer trips to the bunkie — and the dump — during cold and

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Five ways to turn fallen leaves into free fertilizer for your garden

Leaf litter is a common sight in yards across the country this time of year. Instead of raking leaves into bags headed for the landfill, experts say fallen leaves can stay put, and with a little preparation, become a natural renewable resource that creates the perfect soil to grow new vegetation.

Raking leaves
Raking leaves

(photo/patrickheagney/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, yard wastes account for approximately 20 percent of all garbage generated in the United States each year.

The EPA’s most recent statistics indicate 34.5 million tons of yard trimmings were accounted for in 2014, but only about 31 percent (10.8 million tons) ended up in a landfill.

Most tree leaves, grass clippings, brush and other prunings end up recycled, composted or burned for energy. And experts, like horticulturist Robert “Skip” Richter with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, suggest taking advantage of the leafy freebies by keeping them in your own yard.

“You have all these free nutrients in an organic form that lay on the lawn and by bagging them up and using them for mulch or compost you can recycle them back into your landscape in a form that plants are designed to take: naturally decomposing organic matter,” Richter said.

Nutrients in leaves that fall from a tree during one season is equivalent to about three-fourths of all the nutrients that tree took up during the year, he added.

Reusing these wastes creates a product that can be used to help improve soils, grow the next generation of crops and improve water quality.

If you are going to hang onto your leaves this year, here are a few ways you can keep them on your property and out of landfills.


A light covering of leaves can be mowed with a mulching mower or cut up with a few passes of a lawn mower. The shredded leaves fall in between the blades of grass and down toward the soil.

Richter said this technique is most effective with southern turfgrasses because they have a course texture and the leaves can fall between the turf blades.


Use a mower with a bag as your leaf gathering device to shred and collect leaves. Then spread the chopped leaves as mulch in flower, vegetable and shrub beds and around trees.

Leaves will slowly decompose on the surface and release their nutrients over time, Richter told AccuWeather. They also form a cover that protects the soil against erosion and crusting from rainfall and irrigation.


Some jurisdictions operate programs in which residents can rake or blow leaves onto the street for pick up by special vacuum trucks on designated days. These are then sent to composting facilities, according to the EPA.

Another option is to compost them on-site. For people who have a compost bin, leaves and other yard wastes can be added to create an organic product that feed trees and plants.

Soil Improvement

You can simply collect leaves and rototill them directly into garden beds to

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