Compost with style - and with worms - using this terracotta vermicomposter

Marco Balsinha
© Marco Balsinha

Composting has a myriad of benefits, most of all converting your food scraps into soil-nourishing compost. If you're into the composting power of worms, some vermicomposters (composting units populated with earthworms) can range from the thoughtful yet chic designer offerings, to the ones you can hack yourself at home with plastic containers. However, Portugese designer Marco Balsinha's creation suggests that terracotta can be a great alternative to plastic bins -- stylish yet functional.

Marco Balsinha© Marco Balsinha

Seen over at Designboom, Balsinha's Uroboro is a modular unit that features a stacking design of four interlocking, round terracotta bins. It's inspired by tree-like forms and conceived as its own mini-ecosystem, inhabited by plants, earthworms, and producing compost. The thing tying it all together is a pot with a plant that is place on the top, says the designer:

Atop the base, a telescopic bin is placed. This unglazed form, which has an open bottom, is then plugged using a glazed slab and cork stopper. The two sections’ different surface qualities allow water to seep downwards and veggie slop to be pulled upwards by roots as it liquifies. This process is aided by the fifth — and most likely not-included — component: earth worms.

Marco Balsinha© Marco Balsinha

To come up with the final design, which was presented as his product design thesis at ESAD Caldas da Rainha, Balsinha went through ten prototypes, testing them in different households with different habits and composting experience, of which six were successful.

To begin, one continuously puts food scraps in the bin at the top. As the composting process is accelerated by the worms, the bin holding the plant slowly sinks down, and markings on its side shows the user the gradual progression of composting. Any icky goo is plugged up with a cork stopper at the bottom, which can be regulated and emptied if needed.

Marco Balsinha© Marco Balsinha
Marco Balsinha© Marco Balsinha
Marco Balsinha© Marco Balsinha

Clay was used here as an effective "mediator of odour, moisture and temperature" for both humans and worms -- a plus for people who want to compost, but don't like odours, nor the aesthetic of plastic bins. The low-tech yet naturally stylish aesthetic (it does look like a mini-tree) of Uroboro is a welcome departure from the plastic DIY vermicomposting bins and overly high-tech options we've seen out there. Though it's a humble material, it seems like terracotta is a natural fit for things like composting, drip irrigation, air cooling, heating and even food refrigeration. More over at Designboom and Marco Balsinha.

Tags: Composting


treehugger slideshows