The 3 Best Compost Machines of 2021

Turn food scraps into soil the easy way.

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It’s a sad fact, but food waste is a major issue around the world. From banana peels to spoiled leftovers, it adds up more quickly than you might think. In fact, the EPA estimates that 42.8 million tons of food waste ended up in landfills or combustion facilities in 2018, the most recent year for which we have data.

But reducing food waste isn’t always easy. Composting it is a great option, but not everyone has a home with space to accommodate a traditional compost bin. Depending on environmental conditions and what you add to the pile, composting can take months to a year to break down into a usable form.

In many other countries where living space is at a premium, such as Asia and Australia, electric food recycling machines, also known as electric composters, make short work of food scraps. Not only do these machines reduce the amount of waste that must be tossed, the finished product also can be added to gardens as a nutrient-rich compost or soil conditioner instead of ending up in a landfill.

Unfortunately, some models have not made it to the United States and others (like the NatureMill) have been discontinued. Several new models are currently are being crowdfunded and awaiting production through various channels, although we're not recommending these options just yet.

Here’s are the best compost machines currently available in the United States:

The Rundown
Its stainless finish is attractive enough to blend in with the rest of your kitchen.
This composter can process up to 10 pounds of food waste per day.
Best Low-Tech “Machine”:
Aerobin 200 Composter at Amazon
The system allows the bin to retain heat generated by the aerobic composting process.

Best Overall: Vitamix FoodCycler FC-50

vitamix foodcycler

Toss fruit cores, peels, dairy, and even chicken bones into the dishwasher-safe waste bucket, press a button, and the unit gets to work drying, grinding, and cooling scraps. The end result is a pleasant-smelling mulch-like substance that's ready to be used to top-dress the plants in your garden or worked into the soil. The entire process takes several hours. It only requires one cubic foot of space (about the size of a bread machine) on your counter, and its stainless finish is attractive enough to blend in with the rest of your kitchen.

A carbon filter lid controls odors. The unit does require electricity, but it’s quiet enough that it’s not too annoying. It comes with a 3-year warranty. The 10.5 cup capacity bucket is small though, so if you have a big family, it may be tough to handle all your scraps.

“Using a FoodCycler is kind of like magic. It’s impressive how well it works to create a nutrient-rich fertilizer that can be used in may ways around the garden. However, I wouldn’t add it to indoor houseplants without letting it cure first. A friend of mine tried this and it attracted fruit flies.” ~ Margaret Badore, Treehugger Senior Editor 

Best Splurge: Compostology Automated Composter GG-02

Compostology Automated Composter GG-02

This composter can process up to 10 pounds of food waste per day. At 18 inches tall and wide with depth of 30 inches, it’s not countertop size but it still takes up little space in your home. It reduces scraps by more than 80% in volume so it won’t need emptied as often as countertop units. It requires a standard household outlet, and could be a good fit for small businesses looking to speed up their food waste processing.

The unit, manufactured in South Korea, is not widely available yet in the United States, but can be ordered online.

Best Low-Tech “Machine”: Aerobin 200 Composter

Aerobin 200 Composter

Though not exactly a machine, this 7-cubic foot capacity hot composter has a patented aeration tube that runs vertically through the composter to speed up the process compared to the typical compost bin. The system allows the bin to retain heat generated by the aerobic composting process. Materials heat up quickly, so they break down more quickly, and you don’t have to turn or agitate the contents.

It’s also insulated to enable year-round composting and requires no electricity. The reservoir base collects 2 gallons of compost tea, which can be drained through the spigot. The unit, designed in Australia, has a 3-year warranty.

Final Verdict

Although options are limited in the United States, the Vitamix FoodCycler FC-50 (view at Amazon) is our top pick for its start-to-finish process that occurs with a touch of the button.

FAQs

How do compost machines work?

These machines, which range from countertop to stand-alone units about the size of a traditional compost bin, dry, grind and cool food waste into as little as a tenth of its original volume. Most cycles take a total of three to six hours, so you can run more than one cycle per day. The finished product can be mixed in with garden soil to provide nutrients and improve soil texture.

Most can process fruit and vegetable scraps, soft bones, and small amounts of other food waste such as pasta or bread. They can’t handle fibrous materials such as pits, nuts, watermelon rinds, or pineapple leaves. You should also avoid putting bioplastics and pet waste in a compost machine.

What are the pros and cons of a compost machine?

Compost machines break down food scraps much faster than traditional compost bins, which may take several months or longer to reduce waste to usable compost. These machines typically don’t take up a ton of space, and they use little electricity. However, some units can process only small amounts of food scraps at a time. In addition, they're much more costly than traditional composting methods, which can be done essentially for free.

In addition, the finished product should cure for a minimum of a week (so you have to save it elsewhere in a bin) before being added to your garden. It’s also suggested to wait several weeks before planting seeds or transplanting seedlings to allow further breakdown of the scraps. Like a traditional composter, you shouldn’t place animal proteins, such as fish or chicken skin, in the machine if you plan to use it as a soil amendment. Finally, avoid adding high sodium foods, which retain sodium levels and affect plant growth.

Can I use the output from a compost machine in potted plants?

Yes, as long as you let it “cure” for a week or more after removing it from the machine. Add an inch or two to the top of the soil, and it will break down slowly as you water.

Coming Soon?

Another upcoming entrant to the compost machine market is the crowdfunded Lomi, created by Pela, a company known for its biodegradable phone cases. The Lomi claims it will be able to break down compostable bioplastics in as little 10 hours. You can pre-order now, and the Lomi is expected to ship in January of 2022. 

However, as with any crowdfunded project, there’s a risk that delivery of the product may be delayed, never get delivered at all, or not work as expected.

Why Trust TreeHugger?

At Treehugger, we know that composting is powerful solution to environmental issues like food waste and climate change. We strive to help our readers learn about the many composting options available to them.

Author Arricca SanSone specializes in writing about home, shelter, and gardening.