Composting not only rescues much of that waste, it reduces the quantity of methane (one of the worst greenhouse gases) produced by waste facilities. It’s also the one thing you can add to your garden that will improve every aspect of your soil structure, nutrition, and biology.
Composting has come a long way from throwing food waste into a pile in the backyard—and hoping for the best. Check out these unique composters making waves around the world and in local neighborhoods.
HomeBiogas Digester System
Video credit: HomeBiogas
An Israeli company is capitalizing on the gas-producing side of composting by making a composter that converts food waste into fuel. The Home Biogas Digester System is designed for suburban composters and can take up to six liters of food waste per day (or up to 15 liters of animal manure or pet waste) and turn it into enough fuel to cook for two to three hours. The composting process also generates five to eight liters of liquid fertilizer, a welcome addition for any gardener—and the unit doesn’t require any electricity. The catch? The amazing digester works best in temperatures above 66°F (17°C), which means those of us in northern climates can only make use of this incredible invention for part of the year. But with free cooking fuel and nutrient-rich garden fertilizer, even seasonal operation has its merits.
Parisian Urinal Composter
Video credit: Faltazi
They say ‘necessity is the mother of invention,’ and that’s certainly the case with Paris’ new composter-urinals. In a city where ‘wild pee’ers’ were winning the battle over public urination, Parisians decided to get creative. Now they are testing a design that looks something like a cross between a letterbox and an herb planter—and the results are encouraging. Stationed outside the Gare de Lyon train station, the pilot composters (known in Paris as uritrottoirs) provide an accessible location for people (er, men) who just can’t seem to wait for a public washroom. Inside, a single compartment captures the waste on a bed of fresh straw. Public employees remove the straw at intervals and take it to a composting facility. The resulting black gold feeds public parks, along with the attractive plants growing on top of the uritrottoirs. The only difficulty seems to be getting people to see the uritrottoirs for what they are, since like most things in Paris, they are rather elegant.
Bokashi Bucket Composting
When it comes to home composting trends, bokashi seems to be at the head of the pack. Bokashi (which means ‘fermented organic matter’ in Japanese) is actually the name for the mix that hurries along this composting process. Made from wheat bran that has been inoculated with microbes, this mix goes on top of your food scraps every time you add them to your bokashi bucket. Then the magic begins: those microbes begin to break down the waste under anaerobic conditions (the opposite of regular compost). The results? When working properly, your bucket creates a ‘pickled’ matter that is smell-free—which makes it an attractive alternative to the ripe odor dominating some compost pails. But remember: bokashi compost isn’t a fully finished product. You still need to bury the partially composted waste to turn the pickled matter into dirt and complete the process. This means you need access to a yard or garden bed. You can also make your own bokashi composter, but you’ll need the inoculated bokashi mix to get you started and keep the process active.
Green Cone Solar Waste Digester
Here is a composter that lets you compost just about anything, including meat, bones, and dairy. It’s also great for anyone who doesn’t have a garden. That’s because the Green Cone disposes of food waste in a safe and environmentally friendly way by breaking it down using heat from the sun. Over 90% of the waste will simply go down into the soil below as water, leaving no residue whatsoever. One cone is usually enough for a family of four and is a good supplement to a traditional composting system. Want to make your food waste disappear? This is the composter for you.
Worm Factory 360 Composter
Living organisms are a key part of composting, whether they are microbes or something bigger, such as worms. Unlike outdoor composting where earthworms do a lot of the heavy lifting, this vermicomposting system uses red worms, which can eat half their body weight in food waste a day. This composter makes worm farming easy. Start with a pound of worms, and the worms will eat a 1/2 a pound of waste per day. The Worm Factory 360 has a unique stacking tray design that makes harvesting and maintenance easy. Once you fill each tray, you can easily remove the rich compost and add it to your garden. Within a few weeks you can have several pounds of some of the best compost in existence, and apartment dwellers take note: you can operate this system in small spaces.
Video credit: Greg Hales
Australian designer, Greg Hales, created the Composting Cannon as a way to eliminate large compost piles from Australian backyards and to deliver nutrients right to plants at root level—where they need it most. The invention consists of an aerated cardboard tube that you bury in the garden. As you accumulate food waste, you place it directly into the cannon and tamp it down with the plunger provided. (Following the standard guidelines for composting ratios will increase the speed of the Cannon.) Cap it off with a galvanized steel mesh cover and wait for nature to do its work. The standard kit comes with three aerated tubes, making it easy to start another as soon as your first one is full. One three-tube kit will compost more than 20kg of waste over a four-month period.
Black Soldier Fly Larvae Composters
If worms aren’t your thing, maybe grubs might be up your alley? More and more DIY composters are now using the larvae of black soldier flies to process a wide variety of waste—even human feces and whole dead fish—and turning it into a liquid plant food, as well as producing grubs that you can feed your chicken or fish. What’s interesting about black soldier flies is that the grubs are self-harvesting—in most systems, they separate themselves from the waste into a harvest bucket for easy chicken-feeding. The compost can go directly into the garden or can be fed to worms for super-fast vermicomposting. So far there are a few black soldier fly compost bins on the market (like the Biopod, pictured left) and many more tutorials online showing how to make your own. The bonus? Black soldier flies compost meat and dairy waste. They also work quickly and efficiently.
Swedish Composting Toilet: EcoEthic
What a fancy name for a toilet! This closed-system waterless composting toilet automates every aspect of the humanure composting process. With the capacity to handle four people full time, the Swedish MullToa uses very little electricity and only needs to be emptied four or five times per year. Sitting on the seat opens a trap door that keeps smells in, closing the lid activates the mixing mechanism. This toilet doesn’t come cheap, but can you really put a price on no-work humanure?
Aeroplus 3-Stage Compost Bin
No more need for a three-bin system when you have the whole thing in a self-contained unit. This takes the traditional composting model and makes it far easier to maintain, by taking away the need to turn the compost by hand. The Aeroplus can process compost in 6-8 weeks by separating fresh compost from digesting compost. This lets the digesting compost heat up to 158° F which kills pests and weed seeds. Turn a crank, and this finished compost drops down to the bottom compartment to mature. Not only is this labor-saving, it can hold 21 cubic feet, enough to amend three 4×4 beds each year.
Jora Giant Composters
Jora builds huge, durable tumbling composters like the JK400 Composter which can take 13-21 gallons of waste per week and process it within 6-8 weeks, and with dual-chamber action can turn over compost every 3-4 weeks. Even more impressive is the New Era 20T, a large community composter with three buttons: start, move the compost, and empty. This composter can produce 14,000 pounds of compost per year, and processes each batch in four weeks. This makes it perfect for schools, cooperatives, and restaurants.
Have you found the perfect composter? Comment below or tag us @eartheasy!