Is This High-Tech Food Waste Solution Better Than Composting?

Is This High-Tech Food Waste Solution Better Than Composting?

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Since 2019, I’ve tried my best to keep food out of the landfill (and from stinking up my trash cans). I’ve kept scraps in the freezer, which took up all of the freezer space, and eventually found a great solution in the Bamboozle Bamboo Compost Bin, which I got a year ago and love. The charcoal filter in the lid virtually eliminates the smell of rotting food and I haven’t had any bug issues, even during hot New York City summers. My building has a city-provided food scrap bin downstairs where I empty it regularly. I’ve also taken advantage of community compost programs like NBK Compost and Brooklyn Scrap Shuffle.

Every compost site has different requirements but mine prohibits meat and dairy (I’m a vegetarian with an omnivore partner). I fill the bamboo bin with avocado pits, coffee grounds, onion skins, and other scraps that come from cooking and recipe testing and use a spare produce bag as a liner to make cleaning up easier. It’s easy, though a little messy, to rinse the bin and wipe it clean. The small bin can fill up quickly if you’re prepping a ton of vegetables, but is cute enough to sit on your countertop and comes in four colors. It also has a handle to help you carry it to your closest bin or farmers market.

Photo by Bobbi Lin

To take my food waste journey to the next level, I spent over two weeks trying out Mill, a new kitchen bin that transforms food scraps into a finely ground product that’s used as an ingredient in chicken feed, keeping it in the food system and out of the landfill. Mill’s bin is 50 pounds (the delivery person struggled to get it up my building’s three flights of stairs). I dragged it across the floor and plugged it in next to my 45-liter trash can, which it’s slightly taller than. Pro tip: It’s easier to move if you take out the bucket and filter.

Once the bin is plugged in, it connects to Wi-Fi via the Mill app. Every day, you add scraps and every night, it locks, heats up, and grinds them up. The result looks like sawdust mixed with dirt. When the bin is full, which the brand says takes about a month, you receive a lined box to ship the grinds. The membership covers shipping and there’s no separate cost for the bin with an annual membership (a monthly membership is $45 per month with a $75 bin fee). Bins will start shipping in late March.

Photo by Mill

I had never used a device like this and found the connected app extremely helpful—it has a searchable guide of what can and cannot go in the bin (chicken bones are a yes, cookies are a no because they’re oily). You can adjust the grinding schedule and change the lock settings if you have pets or children. There’s also a detailed analysis of the bin’s carbon footprint, including electricity usage, life cycle, and shipping. When Mill is compressing and grinding food, it’s definitely not silent, especially at the beginning of a cycle (you hear crunches and pops). The sound startled me at first while I was watching TV, but I quickly got used to it and it didn’t disrupt my sleep in a one-bedroom apartment. You can pause the grinding at any time and add scraps during a cycle.

Where the Mill bin truly shined was at a football gameday watch party I threw while testing it. The leftover food, from Buffalo wings to nacho remnants all went in the bin. My guests got it immediately and loved the ease of Mill. It reduced the amount of trash so much that we didn’t even have to empty it that night, just the recycling. The mix cycle took almost 12 hours after the big game. On a typical day with just me and my boyfriend eating, it’s much shorter, about 6 hours. There’s no smell and the membership includes replacement charcoal filters as needed.

Is Mill, which is endorsed by chefs like Samin Nosrat and Paola Velez, easier than composting? The setup is certainly more complicated and it’s more costly. However, if you have the budget and kitchen space (it has the footprint of a large trash can), the day-to-day use is seamless. It’s attractive and minimalist in design and it really cuts down on kitchen trash. There is something irreplaceable about community compost programs, especially ones that support local gardens and projects. But we lack compost infrastructure and Mill is a great solution for the moment, and for home cooks who want to lower their food waste footprints. With food waste contributing 8 to 10 percent of carbon emissions globally, according to the IPCC, there’s room for many solutions.

Do you compost? Let us know below!

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