This Kitchen Appliance Eliminated My Food Waste. But It’s Not a Composter.
The $450 Lomi Home Composter doesn’t actually create compost. But the product is still awesome—if you can afford it.
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From the beginning of February through the end of April this year, I took out the trash just three times. That’s once a month, compared to my usual once-a-week frequency. How did I reduce my trash trips by 75 percent? The answer: a combination of my new obsession reducing my food waste, recycling what I can, and using a product called the Lomi Home Composter.
It’s a countertop kitchen appliance that uses high heat to suck the moisture out of food while simultaneously chopping it up with a slowly churning blade.
In short, the goal of the Lomi is to keep food out of the landfill. My verdict: It does.
Why is it so important to keep food out of the trash? Because food waste in our country is a massive problem. It makes up about 24 percent of the solid waste in our landfills. If Americans nixed all that and put our scraps back into the soil where they belong, the end result would be like shuttering 42 coal-fired plants or taking 37 million cars off the road.
OK—back to the gadget. Let’s start by being clear about what the Lomi is and, maybe more importantly, what it isn’t.
It is a pretty awesome, useful product that turns unwanted food into a valuable soil additive or organic fertilizer. But the Lomi is not a home composter. “True composting requires time plus a universe of microbes to break the food down,” says Dan Matsch, composting manager at Eco-Cycle, a Boulder, Colorado-based nonprofit everything-recycling center.
While the material created by the Lomi isn’t technically compost, it can play an important role in the composting process.
“Microbes actually need moisture to do their thing, so any organic material that has been dehydrated [like Lomi output] is at best a pre-compost material,” says Matsch.
You’d do well to add the stuff to a backyard bin or to mix it in with your garden soil (at a very diluted ratio of 10:1) as a non-traditional, non-commercial fertilizer. You could also put the material into your green bin if you have one, but since raw food waste can also be green binned, I don’t see the point of that–it’s just an unnecessary step that burns electricity.
Using the Lomi
The Lomi is a sleek, elegant-looking machine, designed to look pretty on your countertop. Problem is, it takes up a lot of precious real estate. It’s about the size of a large air fryer or toaster oven, and I frequently shuttled it around and tucked it away when I wasn’t using it (which was rare).
For three months (and counting), every shred of uneatable food in my house went into the Lomi: eggshells, the yucky outer leaves of cabbage, citrus and avocado peel, coffee grounds, apple and pineapple cores. Even moldy sour cream remnants, pizza crust, and a half-eaten burger and forlorn fries that my son brought home from Five Guys went in there. (Scroll down to watch a video of me loading up a typical batch.)
When the bucket was full (it holds about 1 cubic foot of food waste), I’d select a mode, and push start. Five to 20 hours later, depending on the mode, the machine would automatically turn off.
At the end of three months, my electric bill was just $6 higher, and I had reduced what would have been a couple of five gallon buckets of wet, smelly food waste into a single paper grocery bag full of dry, pleasant-smelling, orangy-light brown, organic matter.
The Lomi has three modes that are worth understanding and the company provides plenty of information on the various settings on its website—including how much energy each one uses. I almost always used Grow Mode, the longest and lowest heat setting, because that’s how the Lomi creates the most nutrient-rich output that will help my garden veggies grow.
In its early days, Lomi called this output “compost” or “dirt.” Many online composting experts called Lomi out for over-simplifying and making false claims, so the company wisely refined their marketing material. Now they call what comes out of the machine “Lomi Earth.” But the official product name remains: Lomi Home Composter. So, it’s a composter that doesn’t actually create compost. Confusing, I know. And Lomi knows it too. I predict there will be a name change to the product at some point down the road.
“There are strict guidelines on what can be called compost,” says Matt Bertulli, CEO of Lomi. “We found that referring to Lomi Earth as a soil amendment was a better way to communicate the value of the end product versus calling it dirt or compost.”
One of the most appealing things about the Lomi is that it can also process organic material that shouldn’t go into a typical backyard composter: cooked meat, dairy products, and uneaten takeout moo shu pork. You know, that stuff that gets scraped into the garbage bin at the end of dinner and starts to fester in your kitchen.
Why, I wondered, would these same items be OK in my compost bin after they’d been Lomi-ized? Wouldn’t they still be unfit for composting, despite their changed state? Bertulli explained: “Part of the reason meat and dairy aren’t suggested in traditional composting is because they can infect the compost pile with pathogens and attract pests,” he said. “But Lomi breaks down materials in hours, not months. It removes pathogens from the food waste before things like salmonella and E. Coli can grow, and fragments it into small pieces that meld with fresh compost much more quickly.”
Should You Buy a Lomi?
It depends. The Lomi is not for everyone. Don’t buy one if you’re a veteran composter with an established four-season system going. Don’t buy one if you keep chickens or other farm animals who will eat your food waste. Don’t buy one if you have a local green bin program that you like and use religiously. And, unless you have a concrete plan for how to use what comes out of the Lomi, don’t buy one. In other words, don’t Lomi if you just plan to throw away the output.
And, let’s be real. The Lomi is super spendy and not accessible to everyone. It will set you back $449 and also requires regular replacement of the carbon filtering material and the Lomi Pods (which are little microbe booster tablets said to enhance the growing power of the Lomi output). These refills will run you about $150 per year.
But if you can afford it and don’t check the boxes above, the Lomi is worth considering. Here’s why:
First: it makes you really mindful about food waste. You see exactly what you waste because it piles up inside the bucket and stares you in the face. And that changes habits. At least it did for me.
Second: it completely eliminates nasty smells from the garbage pail. No worries about flies, either.
Third: if you can’t keep your compost pile going in the winter because of cold temps, you can essentially preserve your food waste till spring hits and composting season begins again.
Fourth: it slashes your volume of trash. For me it was a 75 percent reduction in volume. And since I pay about $4 per bag for trash disposal, that will save me about $150 per year in fees.
So, for people like me who love to grow vegetables, live where there is not a green bin program, and traditional composting grinds to a halt during the cold winter months, the Lomi fulfills its promise to reduce food waste.
In fact, I haven’t sent a single scrap of food to the dump since early February. And as of this writing in early spring, my winter’s worth of Lomi Earth is nestled into my garden beds. I like to imagine it pulsing nutritional bombs of goodness throughout my soil. Needless to say, I’m hoping for a bumper crop of veggies this summer. Time will tell. But in the meantime, I’m not sending any food to the landfill.
Kristin Hostetter is the head of sustainability at Outside Interactive, Inc. and the resident sustainability columnist on Outside Online.