Addicted to novelty since 2001

Waste, Taste and Being Green

NatureMill Indoor ComposterAbout a month ago, we bought a NatureMill indoor composter. It’s a pretty cool device. You load all your food waste (pretty much everything, excepting bones, citrus and fruit pits), it churns it up, and in about a month, you get compost. All for about 50 cents of power a month, according to their website. Here’s a two-and-a-half minute introductory video.

This is obviously a pricier option than the bucket-plus-worms option, but that’s not viable in our current residence. Plus, we’re much better composters when the device is within easy reach. And this thing has an air filter, so it doesn’t smell up the house.

The irony is that we have limited use for the loamy compost that the machine generates. We’ve got some plants, but once they’re filled up, we’re left with only one option: illegal dumping. Of dirt.

I remember talking to Vancouver’s deputy mayor a couple of years ago, and he mentioned that half of all of the city’s waste in landfills is organic. It’s shocking how little garbage we now remove from our apartment. We’re down to, like, one grocery bag’s worth of garbage a week. So, thus far, the experiment is working. Plus, it’s kind of fascinating to watch stuff decompose.

Over-Packaged CFLs and Compostable Cups

Some of that garbage featured the destroyed remnants of some plastic packaging. I thought it was ironic that these eco-friendly CFL bulbs came in this irritating, impossible-to-open, non-recyclable blister pack:

Green Irony?

Speaking of plastic and composting, I’ve been spending a lot of time working in the new Serious Coffee location in Cook Street Village. They have some tasty flavoured iced teas. The other day, I noticed some fine print on the ‘plastic’ cup (much like this one). Like a number of cafes and restaurants, they’re using containers made of a corn resin which, while not recyclable, are compostable (not a word, but it should be). I didn’t ask the staff whether they separate the cups out for composting. Instead, I took mine home, cut it into strips and stuck it in our composter. We’ll see if it still looks like bits of plastic in a month.

16 Responses to “Waste, Taste and Being Green”

  1. Jeremy Latham

    Great post about the indoor composter. I’ll be recommending it to my parents, whose current outdoor compost regularly attracts rats.

    Glad to see you’re trying to reduce your footprint. I’ve been doing my best lately too. I was floored by how many products are recyclable these days.

  2. Lauren Wood

    You’ll need to take the semicolon off the link that was generated in the above comment to avoid the 404…

  3. darren

    Lauren: I fixed that semi-colon. Interesting on that front. As you indicate, the cup needs “140ºF and humidity between 80% and 90% for extended periods of time”.

    Our composter might be that humid (it’s very dark and sweaty in there), and warm, but I don’t think it gets up to that temperature. We’ll see if the cup bits have decomposed at all in a month.

  4. alexis

    I would try contacting local garden clubs to see if you can get rid of the compost. Most of them would be glad to get it. It’s like gold to them! I’m sure if you put up some signs that somebody would be glad to take it away.

    And Victoria is FULL of gardeners.

  5. alexis

    Oh, and also http://www.yougrowgirl.com advised not using compost in houseplants because of bacteria or something. I’m not sure why, I just remember that they said to keep the compost outside.

  6. alexis

    I’m going to correct myself here. I’m guessing your compost mixture would be more sterile, since it’s getting mixed inside your home.

    Here’s what I read from an article on- urban composting-
    http://www.yougrowgirl.com/garden/urbancomposting.php

    * Do not use your compost as a replacement for potting soil. It is too heavy for plants to live solely on and might burn them. Instead, mix about one part compost with three parts regular potting or topsoil. This will be more than enough for your plants to get their nutrients.
    * Add to the bin constantly to allow for good compost throughout the season.
    * Never add plants that are diseased, as the disease can spread through your compost and be passed on to any plants you use the compost on.
    * Do not use compost indoors, as it is not sterilized and could carry pests.

  7. Beth

    That’s very cool. I also can’t have the worms in my current residence. But now I know what I’m going to ask Santa for for Christmas!

  8. melanie Watts

    your composter sounds cool. To bad you couldn’t ship all that excess compost you have to me. I have a huge vegetable garden and another huge flower garden. The compost I make does not go very far. I have to fill in the gaps with rotted horse manure I get from a friend. It really is amazing isn’t it how little garbage you have once you start composting and recycling.

  9. Andy K

    Every now and then, one of those blister packs has the recycle logo saying it’s No.1 plastic. I assume they all are, but I know the recyclers can’t/won’t take it without the logo. In any case, they should all be No.1 plastic and they should all have the logo.

    I’d be interested to know what the store does with the cups. Does the distributor take them back to the manufacturer for recycling, or does someone compost them the right way?

    Green waste in the landfill should be a crime. Anyways, as petroleum based fertilizers become more expensive, compost and manure will become commonplace again.

  10. Michel Savoie

    That’s pretty awesome… Is the air filter really that effective? I just moved into a very small condo (500 sq. ft.) and I’m worried about the scent of rotting organic material…

    Also, are you finding that the capacity is sufficient for you?

  11. Jason

    Definitely interested in reading how the cup fares in a month! Thanks for the heads up on the cool composter, it’s definitely something that I have a long-term wishlist.

  12. darren

    Michel: We’ve currently got the composter out on a little deck, so it’s a little hard to judge the smell. I certainly never smell it outside unless I open the lid. We moved it out there because it’s kind of noisy when it churns the food waste. NatureMill assures me this sound will go away over time, and then we might move it back inside.

    Yeah, the capacity is fine for us. We’re only two people, and we’ve never filled up the main chamber with food waste.

  13. Paul Smith

    Wow, so much food for thought here (pardon the pun)

    Something I’ve come across that is most definitely compostable, no special circumstances required, is the plates from Verterra. They’re made entirely from leaves and water. That’s it. No binders (aka glue) just strategically layered leaves that make it strong, and even reusable. I’ve reused mine 10 times. Check them out at http://www.verterra.com

  14. Five Things I’ve Learned About My Apartment Composter

    […] I’ve written before about our apartment composter. I wish my family had one when I was young, because watching the accelerated process of decay would have delighted the eight-year-old Darren. I’m still a little amazed that I can dump, say, some old lettuce into the thing and, 24 hours later, it’s magically turned into dirt. […]

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