"The Problem With Those Kitchen Composting Machines"

"Spoiler: For starters, what they produce is not compost."

"There is something undeniably reassuring about toting my grubby plastic pail of food scraps to the compost pile twice a week. Though the pail can at times be slimy, the knowledge that this glob of waste will soon turn into something useful feels like a beacon of certainty in a world full of chaos.

Perhaps that’s why, when I first heard of the concept of an electric composting appliance a couple months ago, I was thrown. My brain could not fathom that the process of decomposition—mix carbon from decaying plant matter, nitrogen from your food scraps, microorganisms courtesy of the dirt outside, a bit of oxygen, and then wait—might be improved upon.

Though you wouldn’t be able to tell by the ads, which surely litter your social media feed (or are about to after you read this article), these appliances don’t actually create the nutrient-rich stuff we normally call compost. Instead, they rapidly break down your kitchen waste using a mixture of heat, mechanical grinding, and dehydration, resulting in what Helen Rosner of The New Yorker described as “an organic fluff of nicely cooked, thoroughly dried-out stuff.”

It is then up to you to discard that “stuff,” whether by adding it to your houseplants, dropping it off at a community compost spot, or just depositing it in your regular trash. If you try to use it to grow new plants, thereby repeating the cycle as nature intended, you might be disappointed."

Rosie Spinks reports for Sierra magazine November 19, 2023.

Source: Sierra, 12/08/2023