Food Waste Is Gross. Turn It Into Compost With One Touch of a Button

An elegant solution for an issue that’s hard to stomach

Image Source: Pela / IndieGoGo

Global food waste is happening on an insane scale. In the United States alone, it’s estimated that food loss at the retail and consumer levels is around 31%. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), there were 103 million tons (81.4 billion pounds) of food waste generated in America in 2017. That equates to between 30%–40% of the food supply, and $161 billion in monetary cost — a figure that’s hard to stomach.

Pela, a company that makes “everyday products without everyday waste,” including the world’s first fully compostable phone case, have set their sights on the world of home-composting with their new device called Lomi. The company has already prevented the equivalent of 48 million plastic bags from being created — with the aim of reaching a billion — and now it’s targeting food waste.

Lomi almost seems too good to be true

It’s odorless, quiet, low energy use, and mess-free thanks to its dishwasher-safe compost bucket. It even looks nice with its all-white finish and minimal one-button design. Best of all, it doesn’t require land, garden patches, or composting bins; instead, it needs all of 1.3 feet of space, making it perfect even for the smallest of kitchens.

The company began with a pretty lofty question. Speaking of the project’s origins, Matt Bertulli, CEO of Pela said, “We started to just wonder, could you actually take what nature is going to do in five or six months, and can you apply some technology to that and speed it up dramatically?”

It seems the company has managed to achieve this. Lomi offers three modes controlled through its single button that take various amounts of time — but all of which are faster than Mother Nature.

  • Express dehydrates waste and reduces its volume in an impressive time of under four hours.
  • Eco creates nutrient-rich fertilizer out of your food waste in around 20–24 hours.
  • Bioplastic breaks down biodegradable cutlery, Lomi-certified coffee cups, and plastic bags along with Pela phone cases (yes, you can really compost your phone case from the comfort of your kitchen).

The machine works by replicating the natural conditions for breakdown. It uses temperature and humidity sensors to combine heat and oxygen with a blade acting as the worms to churn the contents of the container.

According to Pela, each Lomi can prevent approximately 60 kg of C02 and store the equivalent of 40 kg of CO2 (within the soil) per year, based on three kg of waste per week. That’s about the same benefit to the environment as planting around 2,700 trees each year. The numbers highlight the serious potential this device has, especially if it’s adopted at scale. The indicators so far are positive; the current fundraiser has raised $2,739,320 from over 8,000 backers, well over its $50,000 goal.

If one isn’t interested in composting for garden use, Lomi still provides benefit as it will help local municipalities recycle your food waste more efficiently. By breaking down leftovers into compost, it reduces the volume and weight by 80%. As Bertulli notes, “that’s awesome for municipalities because municipalities are largely paying for the stuff by weight. The less every household is sending out, the less cost burden there is on taxpayers funding waste disposal.” And even if your local area has no recycling options, putting soil in your trash is better than food waste, as the process of food breaking down releases the greenhouse gas methane, which Lomi contains within the soil.

The one current downside is accessibility; Lomi is priced at $499 (though currently cheaper if you preorder through their funding campaign). But the company is well aware that to fulfill its dream of a “waste-free future,” the product needs to become more affordable to the majority of people, and they hope that as they scale, they can lower the cost.

If the project is a success, it could be a game-changer. For too long, governments and big-business have talked the talk about improving waste management, with little action to show for it. Lomi is looking to walk the walk, and look the part while doing it.

Editor-in-Chief of Post-Grad Survival Guide • Columnist in Marker • Thoughts on business, ideas, writing & more

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