Photo by Travis Rainey, Styling by Joseph De Leo

Now that you’re thoroughly depressed, let me get back to that kitchen gadget: the Vitamix FoodCycler.

The makers of the world’s best blender have created a device aimed at reducing food waste — and by “reducing” I mean literally making smaller. With a countertop footprint similar to a premium ice cream machine, the FoodCycler “breaks down food waste into a tenth of its original volume and creates a nutrient-rich fertilizer you can add to your soil,” according to Vitamix.

If you’re the type who collects food scraps in a too-small bucket that turns absolutely rank under the sink after a couple days, you’re already familiar with the routine. The FoodCycler has a bucket of its own — mercifully sporting a lid with carbon filters, drastically cutting down on the ambient rankness in your kitchen — that you fill with fruit peels, vegetable trimmings, egg shells, and even chicken bones. Once it’s full, you place the bucket inside the machine, pop on a different (but also carbon-filtered) lid, and press one large button. Hidden from your eyes, the machine begins a process of heating, drying, and grinding all of those scraps, and somewhere between three and eight hours later, it will beep in triumph: Your food is now fertilizer.

At least, that’s what the promo videos make it look like. Could I really transform discarded plant matter into dirt in a matter of hours, and never again deal with gooey effluvia leaking out of compostable bags as I hurry them to the scrap collection site at my local farmers market? One afternoon, I filled the FoodCycler bucket with the tops, tails, and skins of a half-dozen softball-size onions and set the machine a-whirling. The machine emitted the occasional faint mechanical noise as it stirred the contents of the bucket, but otherwise it was practically silent — just a low hum from the rear exhaust fan, which was also blessedly odorless. By that evening my scraps had been reduced to a mere handful of brownish soil that smelled ever so faintly of onion-flavored chips.

I don’t mean to sound grandiose, but reader, I felt like a god.

Now, to be clear, what the FoodCycler does is not composting, which requires no electrical input but takes much longer to convert food into a soil amendment than this $ 400 device. Nor does it simultaneously improve soil health while sequestering carbon, which traditional composting does.

But if you’re an apartment dweller like me, without a backyard garden composting setup or a building with a food scrap collection program, the FoodCycler offers several benefits. No longer do I stash those disintegrating green bags in my freezer until Sunday, the only day I have the opportunity to drop them off. Now, I simply have a quart-size deli container that takes about a week’s worth of FoodCycled scrap fertilizer to entirely fill, which I then mix with potting soil to feed my growing collection of tropical plants.


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